An Abusive Marriage, Well-Meaning Christians, and God’s Word

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I ran across a post on Facebook that a friend wrote. Flo Fromer-Wedding posted about the spiritual tug-of-war process she went through while she was in an abusive marriage.  Unfortunately, the church is often a volatile place for abused women to get help, especially when there is greater emphasis on the “covenant of marriage,” than the emotional, physical, and spiritual well-being of individuals in the marriage.

I think Flo’s words might resonate with many, and for others, might help as they navigate these difficult waters, while still trying honor God and do the right thing. ~Julie Anne

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By Flo Fromer-Wedding

I love God’s Word.. I love it so much, in fact, that I resolved many years ago to obey it… even the parts I “didn’t like” or understand. My resolution came with a great price to me personally. It led to a breakdown of my mental and emotional health… It led to a willingness to let go of all control in my life, and even more tragically, it led to me stand back and keep quiet when I should have intervened on behalf of my children. In God’s Name I unknowingly allowed their emotional health to be compromised! All this, because of the written Word of God, devoid of the Spirit of God!

I will never forget the words someone spoke to me or how I felt when they said them… and the light that turned on inside of my head ….. “you not only have a right to protect yourself from abuse, you also have a right AND a RESPONSIBILITY to protect your children.”

THIS shed a whole new light on the situation I had so firmly resolved to stay committed to “til death do us part”. Those words opened my eyes to a bigger picture, one which gave me, not only the freedom, but the responsibility to GIVE IN to the still small voice of the Spirit that had been whispering truth to my heart for so many years….(the voice that seemed to contradict the written word that had been pounded in to my head for so many years!)

I finally gave in to the truth… I gave in and saw JESUS in a way I had never seen Him before, and He opened the floodgates of truth, bringing freedom, and leaving in it’s path, the damaged remains of a life built on some other person’s (many other’s) interpretation of God’s “clear” Word.

How my heart aches to go back and follow the voice of the Spirit, Who is the ONLY one who can bring us to an understanding of God’s written Word. How much damage could I have prevented for myself and my loved ones had I not been so submissive to the “authorities” in my life?

In the hand of satan (and whoever chooses to follow his ways, knowingly or unknowingly) the written Word of God becomes a weapon of destruction…not a breath of Life! I have tasted the Word from both sources now and I can never go back! One brings bondage of the worst kind, in which you believe, while begging God to give you strength to endure and stay committed “to His Word”, that somehow God will be glorified through it.  😞

No, the written Word of God is only alive and powerful (in a good way) through the Spirit of Christ. Without the breath of God, it is a handbook for dead religion.

When I tuned my ears to hear, and freed my heart to acknowledge truth…. When I fixed my eyes directly on Jesus and my heart fell head over heels in love with Him… THIS is when I felt the Spirit correcting my understanding of Scripture… the understanding that had held me and my children captive to abuse. It was at this time that Scripture came alive to me and I began to see the healing power of Jesus in my own life. It was at this time that God’s Spirit began to write songs through me… 12 in one year… because I had so much bubbling up inside of me. I was coming alive, even through the pain and the fears of a very unknown future. I could not contain it so it came out in songs…. songs that would become a testimony to myself and others of what God had done and was doing for me.

All this came when I rejected my “clear” understanding of the written words and I reclaimed those same written words with new understanding through the Spirit. One brought death, the other Life. How can that be… they were the same words I had read all my life? The difference is the teacher,and there are MANY teachers!

Yes, I have suffered condemnation from some of my brothers and sisters in Jesus because they have an understanding of “God’s written Word” and clearly I am in sin. I have learned to live with this condemnation but I reject it… I know it is not from God.

I have decided to follow Jesus… no turning back and no matter the cost… and while there may be condemnation from other Christians , there is NO condemnation in Christ. For that I am grateful. I desire, more than anything, to hear and walk according to the Spirit of Truth… I pray for wisdom and understanding of God’s Word through the power of His Spirit, but if I do not speak the Word in accordance with the Spirit of God, with His heart and with His truth, then I hope I do not speak it at all.

If you have never experienced the suffocating, life-sucking religious bondage that comes from submitting to the idols others have made in the Name of God’s Word… then you may never understand what I am saying here today. I know this is not the kind of testimony that is welcome in many churches… Still it is MY testimony. I am thankful for the ministry of the Spirit as He breathed Life into the written Words on a page and made them come alive to me, for only then, did they become the power that has set me free.

 

Photo credit:  Source

 

Biblical Counseling and Domestic Abuse

Biblical Counseling, Domestic Abuse, Victim Safety, Heath Lambert

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-by Kathi

The Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC) will be holding their annual meeting this fall addressing Biblical counseling and abuse. Leading up to this event I thought it might be a good idea to look at how Biblical counseling addresses domestic abuse.

Heath Lambert is the Executive Director of ACBC and spoke on Restoration After Abuse. In this speech, he discusses two extremes of how Christians respond to abuse. Christians will either tell a victim to get out of the abusive relationship or they will tell the victim to submit more and pray more. He then offers a lengthy response on how to help a victim to restore relationship yet keep her safe.

And so that’s the tension. We want to aim for restoration. We want to believe that this abusive man can change and their marriage can be restored, but we also need to be sure that we’re doing what we can do to keep this woman safe. And so that is the tension, and I think the way you resolve it is with a couple of different things.

One is: violent men have to be separated from their wives and their families for a season in order to establish trust. There has to be some kind of separation here. Usually that’s going to mean the people in the church, if it’s possible, removing him from the home, giving him a place to stay so that the wife and kids can operate in their home in an as uninterrupted a way as possible. If that’s not possible, and if you have a very violent man who’s not listening to reason, then you might have to have the wife and her kids come stay with a family in the church or with a family member or some place else safe. But there has to be some separation so that we can figure out what’s going on and so that we can establish trust. In the early stages of dealing with this, one of the principles that I’ve observed is that a husband only sees his wife during times of intense counseling. (bolding added)

And so you’re out, you’re staying somewhere else, you’re staying with a friend, you’re in an apartment or your family is out staying some place else, and the time you’re with your wife is when you’re meeting for counseling or to work on the problems. And you should have a situation where you’re getting intensive counseling certainly in the early weeks where two, three times a week you’re meeting together to deal with the urgent issues that have come from this revelation of abuse. (bolding added)

I will address the potential of setting up a stalking situation later, but the first issue with this scenario that stands out is when a violent husband is separated from his wife the only time he is to see her is during intense counseling. No, no, NO! Couples counseling is good when there are relationship issues. Abuse is not a relationship issue! Abuse is about power and control by the abusive partner.

Couples counseling implies that the problem of abuse lies with both partners. Abuse is always the perpetrator’s problem, not the victim’s problem. Abusers may sabotage counseling sessions by attempting to get the counselor on his side. On the other hand, if the counselor is siding with the victim, the abuse may increase as the abuser tries to regain power and control of the relationship. A victim may not feel safe to speak up about her experiences for fear of retaliation, and an abuser will not be totally honest about his actions. Couples counseling is neither the best option nor the best practice when abuse is present.

A victim needs to seek individual counseling to deal with the trauma of her abuse. Likewise, a perpetrator committed to change needs to seek counseling that specializes in treating abusers.

Heath Lambert’s counseling solution continues on with:

 Slowly, over time you can begin to increase the amount of supervised time that a couple spends together. We will be together, but we’ll go out with some couple friends of ours who know about the problem who are working with us. Or maybe a Christian couple who is coming with us to go to the park and our kids can play while we sit and talk. And then after that’s gone on for a while and you’re making progress, then you can slowly increase the amount of unsupervised time. This would be where a husband takes his wife on a date. They go out to dinner, they go out to do something fun together, and they’re alone, but they’re alone in public, and they’re alone for a shorter amount of time so that we can continue to evaluate this kind of thing. Eventually, you want to slowly begin to reestablish the couple in the same house. And I say you slowly want to do that, and that might be the husband comes home from work, has dinner, helps put the kids to bed, but then goes and stays where he’s been staying for a while. Slowly establish them in the house.

Then maybe he spends the weekend, and we’re just establishing that this seems that it’s going well. Through all of that we’re watching two things: we’re watching one, the comfort level of the wife. She knows this guy. She knows him better than anybody else. And if she is saying, “I feel really good about this. I think he’s different,” then that really is a judgment that matters. And on the other hand, if she’s saying, “Something’s not right. He’s acting strangely,” then that is a judgment that really matters as well.  So we’re watching for her response and paying attention to that. And then, the other thing we’re watching are signs of repentance from him.

The point there is to give some indicators of what it looks like when someone who is guilty of sin is really turning at the level of their heart from that sin. We want to be as Christians watching this man to see is he demonstrating these marks of repentance. If he’s not, we have a problem, but if he is, we can start to feel good about these slow, steady steps towards restoration, but also keeping this woman safe in the midst of this process.

Back to the potential stalking situation….This scenario is focusing on a violent abuser. Does the counselor even consider the fact that when a violent, controlling abuser is separated from his victim he will probably do all he can to find her? Abusers don’t give up their victims that easily. Are they that naive that a violent abuser will easily agree to separation?

Lambert suggests that everything is done purposefully to ensure the victim’s safety. How is the progression of monitored date nights to moving back in together keeping the victim safe? Who is ensuring that the violent husband is following all the steps? Is there a third party spending the weekend at the home during home visits to make sure the violent spouse is non-violent? This is a recipe for disaster.

In the world of victim advocacy, safety plans are developed with victims for the purpose of the victim to identify ways to keep herself safe. A good safety plan is tailored to an individual’s unique situation. The scenario above is far from safety planning!

I am guessing that Heath Lambert is considered the expert of Biblical counseling since he is the Executive Director of ACBC. I strongly question his qualifications as an expert in abusive behavior and abusive power dynamics if this is his solution when dealing with a violent offender. This leaves me extremely concerned for how Biblical counselors will be trained in October to assist victims of domestic abuse. More importantly, I am concerned about the safety of domestic abuse victims who go to any “Biblical counselors” for help.

If you are experiencing domestic abuse and would like help please email us at SpiritualSB@gmail.com. Or, please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-7233 to speak with a victim advocate.

 

**Updated to add: I plan on writing more about how Biblical counseling addresses abuse. If you have experience of going through Biblical counseling to deal with domestic abuse and would like to share your story, please email us or send us a private message through our Facebook page. You may share anonymously and share as little or as much as you would like. We want to honor your story.

Photo courtesy of Pixabay.

BREAKING NEWS: Dr. Paige Patterson Terminated, Effective Immediately: No Title, No Housing, No Ongoing Compensation

Paige Patterson, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, SBC, #Churchtoo, #ChurchToo, #MeToo

 

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A new statement was just released at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary: Continue reading

Paige Patterson called an abuse advocacy group “as reprehensible as sex criminals”

Paige Patterson, Sex Abuse, Southern Baptist Convention

 

Admin note:  This blog was written and submitted to Spiritual Sounding Board. The author wishes to remain anonymous. ~ja


Paige Patterson called an abuse advocacy group “as reprehensible as sex criminals”

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Did you hear about the movie Spotlight? It won Best Picture in 2015.

It’s a true story about an investigative reporting team from the Boston Globe who uncovered systematic hiding of sexual abuse and abusers in the Catholic Church. The Spotlight team accomplished their exposé, published in 2002, with the help of the organization Survivor Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP).

When the movie aired in 2015, many who had never before heard of SNAP now found out the heartbreaking and heroic work they’d been doing for decades.

But there’s a SNAP outreach for Baptists too, and Christa Brown, the author of the outstanding book This Little Light, was in 2008 the leader of that outreach, having recorded in that book and at www.stopbaptistpredators.com  her work of many years in calling for the Southern Baptist Convention to deal with abuse seriously and establish a database of predators so that churches would better be able to avoid filling their pulpits with them.

These efforts failed.

But this does bring us around to Paige Patterson. Continue reading

Analysis: Paige Patterson’s Teachings on Domestic Violence Keep Victims in Harm’s Way

Paige Patterson, Domestic Violence, SBC, Divorce

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Over the weekend, an old recording of an interview from 2000 with Paige Patterson resurfaced, causing an uproar because of his response regarding domestic violence. Paige Patterson is a prominent Southern Baptist leader and president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary (SWBTS).

I have been familiar with this recording for several years, but numerous attempts to address this issue have been ignored. Until now – when the world is paying attention to sexual abuse, harassment, and violence against women especially. It’s about time! Patterson caught wind of the responses and felt he was misrepresented, so he issued a statement yesterday (April 29th). As of this writing, both The Washington Post and Christianity Today have picked up the story.

I have taken a close look at the transcription from the interview and the new statement. The old statement is shown in orange font, the new statement is in purple font and indented. My editorial comments are in black. While Paige Patterson has attempted to clarify his position on domestic violence and respond to the recent firestorm, his new statement in his press release leaves me even more confused. He contradicts his original statement. The new statement sounds more like a fairy tale, rather than a factual incident. Continue reading

Paige Patterson on Domestic Violence: Audiofile Transcript and Resource Links

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On This Page:

  • Series Resource Links
  • Updates
  • Introductory Notes and Key Links
  • Chronological Documents, Analysis, and Commentary
  • Select Resources and Historical Sources
  • Transcript for Audiofile of “Paige Patterson (SBC) Advice to Victims of Domestic Violence”

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Series Resource Links

Resource Links, Part 1 – April 28 through May 22. Historical background resources, audiofile transcript, news articles and social media responses from April 28-May 22.

Resource Links, Part 2 – May 23-28. News articles and social media responses.

Resource Links, Part 3 – May 29 through June 3. News articles and social media responses.

Resource Links, Part 4 – June. Focus on statements and news articles related to topical and institutional issues in advance of the SBC annual meeting of June 11-12.

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Updates

May 12, 2018. This bibliography grew far larger than expected, with delays in finding and posting links to earlier articles. Starting today, new items will appear at the bottom of the section for items from that date of publication, and will be marked with the date the link is added to this bibliography. For readers who just want the latest listings, search for [Link added DATE, 2018.] and fill in the date. Continue reading

Domestic Violence, Ministry, and Controversy in Conservative Christianity: A Guest Post on Historical Context and Perspective

This is a guest post by brad/futuristguy, and is cross-posted on his blog.

Although Brad Sargent is known for his more recent research writings on spiritual abuse from a systemic perspective, he has written and edited on other forms of abuse and violence since the 1980s.

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Statue of Lady Justice © Sebastian Duda, Fotolia #35822634.

Contemporary Conservative Christianity and Questions About Abuse

Contention over abuse and violence in Christian communities has heightened in the era of #metoo and #churchtoo. However, controversies over theology, advocacy, and actions have been with us for a very long time. Recently, comments on abuse made by Paige Patterson, President of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, resurfaced and ignited a social media firestorm. Continue reading

A Personal Story and a Sad Conclusion When Pastors Failed to Respond Appropriately to Domestic Violence

Domestic violence, Church response, Rob Porter


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Will Those in the Real Gospel-Centered Churches Please Stand?

Gospel-Centered Movement, TGC, YRR, Calvinists, Jared Wilson

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BREAKING: Leaders at Doug Wilson’s Christ Church Put Woman in Abusive Marriage Under Church Discipline

Mike Lawyer, Counseling, Abuse in Marriage, Abuse of Authority

I have been in contact with a woman named Gen, who has agreed to let me post this letter she received from Mike Lawyer, “on behalf of Christ Church Session.” Christ Church is Doug Wilson’s church in Moscow, Idaho. If you would like to learn more about Doug Wilson and his extra-biblical and spiritually abusive ways, see his name in “Categories” in the side bar.

Gen told me she was in an abusive marriage. She was not physically abused, but was emotionally, verbally, spiritually, and financially abused. She and her husband sought counseling, and were in counseling both together and separately.

Gen also told me that she didn’t respond appropriately to the abuse – that she reacted by yelling and crying. I don’t think that’s an inappropriate response to abuse, do you? That seems very normal. I’m not sure where she learned that she was responsible for her response, but that concerns me because it takes the focus off the perpetrator and places it on the survivor – as if they are both equal sinners.

This following letter was sent to Gen on January 18, 2018. Mike Lawyer has decided he knows her spiritual condition and has determined that she is not living up to being a proper wife, etc. Because of her “unwillingness” to deal with her sins, she is being put in church discipline.

It’s important to understand that Doug Wilson believes that husbands are the heads of the home. He believes in Patriarchy. If husbands are the priests of the home, who do you think they would believe first, the husband or the wife? Continue reading

Bethlehem Baptist Church Excommunicates Victim of Domestic Violence

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First #MeToo, Now #ChurchToo: Sexual Abuse, Harassment, and Mishandling in the Church

#MeToo, #ChurchToo, Sexual Abuse, Harassment, Church

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The hashtag #MeToo has been trending for quite some time on Twitter. Women who have been sexually harassed or abused have been identifying themselves as survivors of sexual harm, indicating it with the hashtag, #MeToo. But now, there is a new trending hashtag, #ChurchToo. The stories that you can read in one little tweet are heartbreaking.

I wanted to share some here, and also invite those who have been on Twitter to feel free to share more here if they like.

If you are new to Spiritual Sounding Board, this is a blog that deals with abuse in church or church groups. We have dealt with all kinds of sexual abuse: sex abuse of children, sexual abuse in marriage, sexual abuse by clergy, wives of pedophiles, church leaders who have failed to report sexual crimes, church leaders who have blamed victims for sexual crimes, and also spiritual abuse which often occurs when a church leaders are involved in any capacity (perpetrator, counselor, spiritual advisor).

If you have been harmed sexually, this is a safe place. If you would like to share your story in more detail, you can in the comments, or to me privately: spiritualsb@gmail.com. Please feel free to comment using a pseudonym. This is your place to use your voice where it will be heard.

~Julie Anne Continue reading

Lori Alexander Refuses to Talk About Abuse

Lori Alexander, Domestic Violence, Biblical Submission

Lori Alexander, domestic violence, abuse

Images used on The Transformed Wife blog posts. Left: “Married to Angry Men” on 9/9/17. Right: “Too Many Angry Wives” on 7/20/17

-by Kathi

There is nothing new under Lori Alexander’s sun. She still writes about submission, and I’m sure she always will. Every once in a while she will write a post that gives us an extra glimpse about how her teachings may keep women in abusive relationships. In “Sweating Bullets While Teaching Submission,” Lori tells us why she does not write about abuse.

Lori will write about submission and never mentions abuse because:

If you read other biblical marriage blogs, you will see that most of them have warnings all over them about abuse and what submission doesn’t mean. If you notice, my blog doesn’t have this. I have written many posts about submission and never even mentioned the word abuse on most of them. I do this purposefully because abuse and submission don’t go together as many today try to do by twisting and perverting the beauty of submission. (Yes,  I have a post on my side bar for those who are in marital crisis but it has nothing whatsoever to do with submission since even wives who aren’t submissive are physically abused.)

On purpose, Lori will not discuss abuse because she believes that “biblical submission” is not abusive. Continue reading

Domestic Violence: A Call to the Church – Reevaluate Your Beliefs

Domestic Violence, Church Response, Beliefs

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-by Kathi


I am pausing our Sunday Gatherings for the rest of October. October is Domestic Violence Awareness month, and I would like to take this time to talk about how the church can effectively respond to domestic violence.

 

The church can be incredibly helpful to victims of domestic violence, or, it can be incredibly damaging to victims. The way in which a church responds to a victim depends upon the beliefs that the church has about domestic violence. This is an open challenge to the church to re-evaluate a few beliefs which may keep victims within abusive relationships. Continue reading

“Taking marriage seriously” – what does that mean for a Christian?

Christian Marriage, divorce, domestic violence, abuse, marital counseling, extramarital affairs


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-Taking marriage seriously- means taking the vows seriously and having real consequences for breaking them. The idealists and perfectionists who are trying to turn -marriage- into a protected space for all man.png

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My friend, Valerie Jacobsen posted this statement on her Facebook page and I asked permission to share it. I found it powerful, and yet, so contrary to the way marriage is handled in the church – especially when abuse is involved. I’m sick and tired of women being forced by their pastors/elders to bear the brunt of evil in their marriages by staying in their evil and harmful marriages.

I do not believe for a second that it is godly advice for pastors tell abused wives to remain married to their chronically evil and reviling spouses. If marriage is supposed to be representative of Christ and the church, an abusive marriage is a mockery to Christ. It seems that pastors would want to help rid the church of the blot of evil when there is an abuser clinging to his marriage and refusing to change his evil ways.

Women who leave their chronically cheating and/or abusive husbands are saying NO to evil. It is their husbands who abandoned the marriage long ago when they started their evil ways.

We need to stand beside these women and tell them they are free to go when pastors tell them otherwise. Pastors who give this bad advice are not living with this evil. And I’ll bet that they would not say this kind of thing if it were their daughter living with an abuser. Let’s stop this crazy business!

 

 

 

h/t Hannah Smith for image (taken in Hawaii)

 

 

Pastor Phil Johnson Shows His Heart toward Domestic Violence Victim

Domestic Violence, Phil Johnson, Grace Community Church, John MacArthur

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1-1/2 years Later, Bethlehem Baptist Church Doesn’t Seem to get Domestic Violence: A Personal Story

Bethlehem Baptist Church, Pastor Jason Meyer, Domestic Violence, Emotional Abuse, Spiritual Abuse

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Pastor Jason Meyer, Bethlehem Baptist Church

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. Continue reading