Bethlehem Baptist Church, Pastor Jason Meyer, Domestic Violence, Emotional Abuse, Spiritual Abuse
Almost exactly 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. Continue reading
Administrative note: Michael Newnham has given me permission to cross-post his article from Phoenix Preacher blog. We have both spent countless hours investigating, talking with people, gathering source documentation, first separately, and then when we realized we were uncovering similar information, made the decision to work on this as a team.
As a personal note, I have such great respect for Michael. He led the way on social media reminding everyone each week to pray for Saeed and his family, petitioning God for Saeed’s release from Iranian prison. When news came of Saeed’s release and there were allegations of domestic violence, etc, he was quite shocked. It took quite a bit for Michael to even consider that what we had been told by ministries and leaders that perhaps all was not as presented. I’m grateful for the opportunity to work with a man who has much integrity and wants the church to remain true and set apart in this dying world. ~Julie Anne
Seeking the Truth about the Saeed Abedini Story: Part 1
by Michael Newnham
This is Part 1 of a multi part series that will explore the situation around Saeed Abedini, his imprisonment, and his actions before and after his captivity.
When Saeed Abedini was imprisoned in Iran in the summer of 2012, the church here and abroad set about to free him with one of the biggest campaigns in recent memory.
Abedini was presented to us as an innocent missionary, a man of God imprisoned for his faith in Jesus Christ.
He was held in horrible conditions we were told, tortured and beaten, often at the edge of death.
The church mobilized as rarely before as organizations like the American Center For Law and Justice, men like Franklin Graham, and hundreds of churches and individuals took up the cause.
Millions of dollars were raised, millions of words written and messages sent to free Abedini before it was too late.
The more we learn, the more we call into question the truth of the narrative we were fed.
According to an Iranian publication these pictures were taken in the prison Abedini was in from November 2013 on.
When I asked Abedini about these photos, he declined to comment.
Others were told that it was a trick perpetrated by the Iranian government to make it appear that he was fine.
When I personally asked him during a phone interview whether he was beaten and tortured as we were told, he continually reiterated that it had been for the first six months.
That brings into question what was going on in the two years after that.
Many of us were astonished by the fact that Saeed Abedini looked rather fit when he arrived back in the U.S.
We were further astonished to hear that Abedini had a cell phone and was able to not only communicate with his family, but to watch movies and surf the net.
These pictures may explain how that was the case….
These same pictures appeared on Naghmeh Abedini’s wall and then disappeared.
Sources tell us that she was allegedly ordered to do so by the ACLJ.
The question before the house is this…
Were Franklin Graham, the ACLJ, and Naghmeh Abedini aware of and exaggerating the truth of Abedini’s captivity?
Two years ago, the ACLJ published this;
“Pastor Saeed is facing constant threats to his very life in the new prison. There have been several nights where he has awoken to men standing over him with knives. Pastor Saeed’s “cell” is only separated by a curtain from the rest of the violent prisoner ward he is forced to share, allowing dangerous prisoners – murderers and rapists – unfettered access to him 24 hours a day.
He has also been robbed at knifepoint several times, stripping him of what few necessities he has been permitted to purchase for personal hygiene.
As a result of the robberies, the utterly deplorable conditions of the prison, and the lack of doctor-prescribed medication which is being withheld by prison authorities, Pastor Saeed’s health has quickly deteriorated.
The pain in his stomach has returned and he is now experiencing increased pain in what he described to his family as his kidneys. As a result of repeated beatings in Evin prison, Pastor Saeed suffered from internal bleeding. After months of being refused medical care, Pastor Saeed was allowed to see a doctor and was prescribed medication earlier this year. As a result of that medication, his physical condition had improved and his pain had subsided. However, since being moved from Evin to Rajai Shahr last month, Iranian officials have refused to allow him this critical medication and his condition is worsening.
He is being refused medication, prescribed by Iranian doctors, for injuries he sustained from prison beatings. This is one of the most deplorable human rights violations imaginable.
To make matters worse, the prison conditions and lack of basic hygiene have led to his body being covered head to toe in lice. Because of the lice and increased pain, Pastor Saeed has been having trouble sleeping. He is also experiencing symptoms of recurring urinary tract infections. There is no medication to stop the infections. He is now also experiencing significant joint pain.
His family reports that Pastor Saeed has also noticeably lost weight in the new prison from lack of proper nutrition.
The conditions he faces are unfathomable. He faces direct threats to his life on an almost daily basis.
…The time is now to pressure Iran for his release. Each day could be his last.”
Were the conditions of his captivity continually exaggerated to keep attention on his plight?
Some sources say yes… and that Naghmeh Abedini was allegedly instructed by others to lie about them when she had questions herself..
We received this statement from Mrs Abedini’s representative;
“During her husband’s imprisonment, Mrs. Abedini’s driving concern was always the safety of her husband and she followed the advice of the counsellors that were helping her achieve that end. Her information regarding Saeed’s prison experience came directly from him and those who visited him, and when they were able to be in contact, he actively directed her in what he expected her to do.
Now that Saeed has been released, she is praying for the restoration of her family”
Let me be clear…any imprisonment is painful and difficult.
However, the public would have interceded without any embellishment of the facts.
It is purported that Abedini’s situation was a cash cow for both Graham and the ACLJ, as well as a political tool for those hoping to stop the Iranian nuclear deal proposed by President Obama.
Framing his captivity in the direst possible way would have enabled the donations to keep flowing and kept the story on the front burner of American media.
Thus, the public in general (and the church in particular) were possibly subject to, if not outright fraud, gross misinformation.
Today, Saeed Abedini will speak at your gathering…for a reported 7500.00…using the old narrative.
If this narrative is a mixture of fact and fiction, it was mainly propagated by Naghmeh Abedini who tirelessly traveled the world to advocate for her husbands release.
While I believe she is complicit in whatever untruths were spread, I also believe that she was quite possibly a victim of powerful men, especially her husband.
It was that abuse that she said caused her to cease her advocacy and that we will examine more closely in the second part of this series.
Domestic Violence, Naghmeh and Saeed Abedini, Divorce, Marriage, Abuse, Church Response to Abuse
The Gospel Coalition (TGC), Kathy Keller, Domestic Violence, Complementarian, Marriage, Headship
The Qualifications Case of Pastor Saeed Abedini, and the Roles of Pastor Bob Caldwell, Franklin Graham, Jay Sekulow, and the American Evangelistic Association
The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. 7 Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.
1 Timothy 3:3-7 (ESV/English Standard Version, via Bible Gateway)
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Regardless of which New Testament translation we use, we can’t get away from the essential mandate in 1 Timothy 3:3-7 — that those who want to be in public roles for the Church automatically subject themselves to ongoing “background checks” about their character and actions. ~ brad/futuristguy
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The Saeed and Naghmeh Abedini story is complicated. That doesn’t mean it is unfathomable, but it has many layers and interconnections involving these two individuals with other people and organizations. This post explores some of those key connections to see how they influenced the unfolding storylines, and to see what we can learn about how to do things better in the future.
The world watched as Pastor Saeed Abedini was elevated to hero status. Our hearts collectively ached for Naghmeh and her young children as we heard of his mistreatment in Iranian prison. After 3-1/2 yrs in prison, Saeed was released, and instead of joyous reunions, we heard of troubling details that were not part of Naghmeh’s original storyline.
Most readers have probably heard by now about Pastor Saeed Abedini’s 2007 domestic assault conviction. Where has this news been all of this time? Would Saeed had been the face of American prisoners in Iran if we had known this? Saeed represented religious freedom, the cause of Christ, and the persecuted Church. I suspect his image would not have looked too good with a previous domestic assault conviction.
The Pastor Saeed Abedini Story: I believe influential leaders failed to take responsibility for those entrusted in their care, and thus, Christ’s name has become a mockery to the world. I find many aspects of this story troubling, but two in particular are disturbing:
- Leaders failed to do due diligence with the Abedini family regarding Saeed’s long-time pornography and abuse issues. Saeed Abedini was unfit to be pastor according to biblical requirements. What was done in this situation? Why was he allowed to continue ministry work? Why was he allowed to obtain and retain the pastor title?
- The Abedini family was used by opportunistic individuals and organizations as a pawn to promote political agendas or personal gain.
Let’s take a look at key people involved in this story. There are four key people/groups involved, as I see it, and I believe these four are responsible for not doing due diligence with this family, or for using them for their personal gain and promoting personal or political agendas:
- Pastor Bob Caldwell, Calvary Chapel Boise – This is the home church of the Abedinis in Boise, Idaho.
- Franklin Graham.
- Jay Sekulow, Chief Counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ).
- American Evangelistic Association (AEA) – This is the organization from which Saeed Abedini obtained his pastoral license.
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Pastor Bob Caldwell
Pastor Bob Caldwell has known Naghmeh since before she married Saeed. He visited Iran when they were married in June of 2004:
Meanwhile, in the U.S., a young woman named Naghmeh from that same country had accepted Christ and was attending Calvary Chapel Boise, ID. Feeling prompted to return to her homeland to share the Gospel with her family, she was sent out as a missionary by CC Boise in 2001. After sharing the Gospel with her family there for two years, she met Saeed. They immediately recognized God’s hand in bringing them together and their mutual calling to share the Gospel with Muslims. During a visit from Pastor Bob Caldwell of CC Boise, Saeed and Naghmeh were married in June of 2004; the couple continued to share Christ in the Islam-governed country. (Source)
Pastor Caldwell and his church were very involved in supporting the Abedini family before, during, and now, after Saeed’s release. In a different article about Saeed’s release from prison, Pastor Caldwell shares more about their relationship and acknowledges the political work Naghmeh has done to help free her husband:
“It’s beyond description really,” said Calwell. “I’ve known him pretty well and have been with him in Iran when he was doing stuff there, starting churches. So I love him a lot and to have him come back is just amazing.”
Caldwell said he’s proud of Naghmeh Abedini’s efforts to free her husband. During Abedini’s husband’s captivity she testified at the United Nations and before Congress. She also met with President Obama last year.
In the same article, Caldwell discusses Naghmeh’s disclosure of abuse by Saeed:
Caldwell said this public revelation – which Naghmeh says she regrets and blames on emotional distress – was a shock to some people in his church who supported Saeed through the years.
“It’s hard for a lot of people because you can turn a person into a hero you know, like a superhero,” said Caldwell. “And that’s kind of dangerous because people don’t want their heroes to be normal.” (Source)
Caldwell, unfortunately minimizes the abuse when he uses the word normal. Why was the word abusive not used? Is it because it is difficult to identify someone you have mentored and supported as an abuser? Most victims understand the importance of correct terminology. To minimize is to dismiss.
Blogger Michael Newnham addresses what Pastor Caldwell knew in his recent article:
We know that as far back as 2007, his spousal abuse and addiction to pornography was known to the pastor he worked under, Bob Caldwell of Calvary Chapel Boise.
We know from sources that Caldwell briefly put Abedini under discipline for this, a time our sources put at 3-1/2 to 4 months.
In the comments section, Michael continues:
I do know that Bob Caldwell exercised authority over him in the matter of his pornography issues.
We read nothing but respect and admiration of Pastor Caldwell from the Abedinis. However, outsiders want answers because they feel they were deceived. Did Caldwell believe Saeed was fit for ministry, knowing his abuse/pornography issues? And did he do anything to prevent him from going overseas and doing ministry work?
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So – what about Franklin Graham? What role did he play in this? Franklin took Saeed and Naghmeh on as his project. The Abedini family was the perfect poster family for religious freedom, and he put his money and his name with both Naghmeh and Saeed over the last 3-1/2 yrs.
You can see how political this situation became and how Naghmeh was used in the process:
“It is not enough,” Naghmeh Abedini said today. “We need to see action to back our rhetoric, in the living, breathing form of Saeed Abedini… having been released.”
“Even if our president can’t see the reality, the rest of the world can,” she said. “I hope and I pray our government… will realize how far we’ve fallen.” (Source)
In the screenshot below, Graham speaks out politically, even naming imprisoned Pastor Saeed Abedini as his friend. The other prisoners are not named. Did you know the other prisoners’ names? I sure didn’t. Someone sure did a good PR job, huh?
A side note about the PR job I mentioned earlier. The DeMoss public relations firm coincidentally represents Franklin Graham, American Evangelistic Association, and Jay Sekulow. Maybe it is not coincidental after all when you look at their political leanings.
Back to Franklin Graham. Graham seemed to be spreading the bulk of news upon Saeed’s release: photos, videos, and statements. We were told that Naghmeh would join Franklin and they would fly together by private plane to Germany to meet Saeed. Naghmeh didn’t go to Germany. Instead, Saeed landed on US soil near Franklin Graham’s place.
These were the first pictures that came out after Saeed returned to the US – pictures with Franklin Graham and his private plane behind them:
We were told Saeed was to rest at Graham’s facility, and Naghmeh and their kids would join him. That, too, did not happen. Instead, Saeed flew to Boise to see his kids. (I read no reports of Saeed seeing Naghmeh – I could have missed something.) Did Naghmeh have a voice in these plans?
What prompted Franklin Graham to be so actively involved in this case? What did he know and when? Did Graham have knowledge of Saeed’s conviction in 2007? Per Naghmeh, he did know about the abuse a few months ago. Naghmeh posted this comment on her Facebook page: “Franklin was giving [sic] letters by religious leaders months ago confirming my allegations of abuse. He knows.”
Franklin Graham frequently mentioned Saeed’s name as he made political speeches about terrorists and the US. Saeed’s name was so well known by now, people didn’t have to know his last name. #FreeSaeed was displayed on social media. People knew who he was, and that he had a beautiful family waiting for him at home. This was great marketing.
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Jay Sekulow, American Center for Law and Justice
Here is Mr. Sekulow’s bio:
“Jay Sekulow is an attorney with a passion for protecting religious liberty – freedom – democracy. For nearly a quarter of a century, he’s been on the front lines – working to protect religious and constitutional freedoms in the courts, in Congress, and in the public arena.” (Source)
I’m not going to get into much from Sekulow except to say that Saeed was once again the poster boy for the kind of causes that Jay Sekulow fights for. Saeed and Naghmeh were used to further his own political agenda.
Check out this article and very short video. The video is basically an infomercial for ACLJ. Take note of the music in the background.
Jay Sekulow: ACLJ leader Jay Sekulow says the fight against Christian persecution is not over just because Saeed was released. Sekulow echoes what each individual involved has stated publicly: Christians must continue to pray and fight for an end to persecution. (Source) http://aclj.org/
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American Evangelistic Association (AEA)
Saeed Abedini received his pastor’s license through this organization. A summary of the historical background of AEA:
To compensate for the highly political hierarchy in a major denomination and the limitations of their overseer systems for organizing and controlling grass roots pastors, in 1954, Dr. [John] Douglas led a group of several dozen pastors in becoming become independent pastors and formed the American Evangelistic Association (“AEA“). (Source)
Did you interpret that the same way I did? I read this as an ideal place to get a pastor’s license if you don’t want to be under someone’s authority. Boom!
American Evangelistic Association recognizes credentials for Pastoral Ordination, Pastoral Licensing, Elder recognition, Deacon/ Deaconess recognition, Church Planting leadership, and missionary. AEA believes the Scripture teaches that both male and female are eligible to serve in all capacities of ministry leadership. (Source)
OK, here’s the important part (bolded by moi):
Background checks are made on all candidates therefore thumb prints are required on the application. (Source)
So – inquiring minds want to know – did they do a background check on Saeed before administering a pastor’s license to him? Here is where it gets confusing. On January 16, 2016, president of AEA, Kerry Fink, sent out two nearly identical statements announcing Saeed’s release from prison. In those statements, there are two different dates indicating when Saeed joined AEA:
This one states early 2010:
And this statement lists June 18, 2008 as the date Saeed joined up with AEA.
Here is the AEA application section where Saeed should have filled out his criminal record:
As we have come to find out from the official Idaho court record on Saeed’s domestic assault guilty plea, the violation date on the case is July 1, 2007, it was filed the next day, and the disposition was on January 25, 2008.
If AEA did their background check as they said they do, and if Saeed was forthcoming with information on his application that he was indicted and convicted of domestic assault, and AEA did invite Saeed into their fold in 2008, then why was he issued a pastor’s license? This blogger wants to know.
In case any of you wanted to become a pastor (male or female, btw), here is what it will cost you, and a brief explanation about the required “contributions.” I never knew that contributions were a requirement!
Since the association is totally dependent on contributions we require all of our members to make a monthly financial commitment to their association. (Source)
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It is my opinion that Saeed Abedini should never have been licensed as a pastor or serving in that role, based on the 2007 case and conviction, and ongoing pornography and abuse issues. Church leaders and the AEA could have done a better job of preventing him from getting into ministries and alerting others to his ongoing problems if he sought out ministry anyway.
It is my opinion that Naghmeh has been a victim of her husband’s abuse, and she was used as a puppet to further the political agendas of Jay Sekulow and Franklin Graham. These two men saw an opportunity for funds, prestige, and power right in front of them and they seized it. However, once the abuse allegations became public, they wiped their hands clean of the mess and I have yet to see anything from them showing real support for Naghmeh now.
Is it any wonder why the world laughs at Christians?
Pastor Saeed Abedini,Nagmeh, Domestic Violence, Public Statement
Pastor Saeed Abedini, #FreeSaeed, Released from Prison, Domestic Violence, Naghmeh
Culture, Spanking, Bible, Lori Alexander, Abortion, Feminism, Divorce
Christian Patriarchy: men who resort to physical force (wife spanking, restricting movement, etc), to gain control of their wives
Should women respect their husbands unconditionally? Dr. Emerson Eggerichs, author of Love and Respect, says so.
I follow the Love and Respect guy, Dr. Emerson Eggerichs in my Facebook news feed. (I’m issuing a trigger warning for one of our own who went to his church.) He now has an entire ministry/business based on the Love and Respect theme, including conferences, books, store, podcast, blog, etc.
Here is part of Eggerichs’ bio:
Dr. Emerson Eggerichs is an internationally known public speaker on the topic of male-female relationships. Based on over three decades of counseling as well as scientific and biblical research, Dr. Eggerichs and his wife Sarah developed the Love and Respect Conference which they present to live audiences around the country.
This dynamic and life-changing conference is impacting the world, resulting in the healing and restoration of countless relationships. Dr. Eggerichs has authored several books, including the national bestseller Love & Respect, which is a Platinum and Book of the Year award winner, selling over 1.6 million copies.
My husband and I saw the Love & Respect video a former church offered. I liked some of it, but it seemed very black and white to me. If husbands really loved their wives and wives really respected their husbands, everything would be hunky dory.
I watched this before understanding the dynamics of abuse in a marriage. This was in the days I was taught that women should submit to husbands in all things and that if husbands did something wrong, we were to quietly pray for them and ask God to change their hearts. Women were to put up with any bad behavior so we could “win” them over by our behavior. If we didn’t win them over, we were told we were suffering for righteousness sake.
Eggerich has a series on wives’ unconditional respect of their husbands. The following two points jumped out at me and I thought we could use it for discussion:
3. Unconditional respect has nothing to do with a husband earning and deserving respect.
A wife’s respectful behavior is displayed independent of her husband. This is about who God calls the wife to be regardless of her husband. Her respect is not conditioned on her husband’s behavior. She will behave respectfully no matter how her husband behaves. She is a woman of dignity.
God calls a wife to conduct herself respectfully by focusing on the spirit of her husband, not his flesh–looking more deeply into that part of her husband where he longs to do what God calls him to do.
Yes, God is grieved by his sinful behavior. However God does not show contempt toward the spirit of her husband because that is not who God is, any more than He shows disdain toward her when she sins.
4. Unconditional respect can prompt a sense of conviction and win the heart of a disobedient husband.
Notice what happened in the story I shared yesterday. This wife’s husband surfaced his sin on the heels of her showing him respect.
Is this a Biblical teaching? Do you think this advice is wise to follow? Why is the onus on the wife to help change her husband’s behavior?
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