Single (Divorced) Woman Asks About Her Friendship with a Married Man from Church

Single Christians, Divorced Christians, Cross-Gender Relationships, Church Response

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A woman found SSB and sent me an e-mail about her situation. The e-mail is from a single/divorced woman and the friendship she has with the praise and worship leader at her church. She, too, is on the praise and worship team. This kind of situation seems to get people nervous. Evidently, single women should not have a friendship with a married man.

Here is her e-mail (which she gave me permission to post):

 

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Dear Julie Anne,

I found your older blog article as I was doing a search for info on cross-gender friendships in church. Unfortunately I may be leaving my church home soon and I wanted to see if anyone else has been in my shoes. I’m a musician on my church praise team and our male leader’s wife wants to have a chat with me. Her husband has been a good friend and sounding board, but I realize now that is a big no-no. I am almost 12 years older than him and have no interest in him other than an encouraging friend, but I sense some boundary has been crossed that I wasn’t aware of in this situation.

I am single due to divorcing an abusive, unfaithful Christian husband. As soon as I became single, I noticed a subtle change in how I was treated by other women in the church. My pastor’s wife has been one of the few that treats me like a friend and not a threat. She made an effort to get to know me. Our worship leader’s wife has been hot and cold with me which leaves me unsure. I’m not sure I want to open myself up to this chat she’s requested, she said she’s been praying for me but the tension was pretty evident.

I have no one to talk to about this situation so I hope you don’t mind that I’ve written you. I found your new site and am amazed at how much you’ve written rings true. Thanks for sharing your experience, it’s helped me a lot.

Blessings,

“Karen”

 

I don’t see this restriction in Scripture, but it sure seems to be a prevalent idea. In full disclosure, I have been on praise and worship teams during much of my adult life. I currently am on a praise and worship team and do maintain friendships with both married and divorced men. (The only single guys on the team are young enough to be my kids, and we haven’t spoken at any level of depth.)

Usually any discussions we have take place at church or places where we are involved in ministry work. I’m sure I have used some of these men as sounding boards (I love that phrase!) from time to time in the past, and even currently. I don’t have a problem with it, and no man has told me that he has had a problem with it (and no wife has, either).

It bothers me that this kind of stigma exists with single or divorced women. I’m not sure if there is the same stigma with single or divorced men, but in light of Scripture in which Paul said it is better to remain single than married, I find this common response troubling. I’d like to hear your thoughts on the subject.

  • The most important question: how would you respond to “Karen?”
  • If you are married, do you have relationships with single people of the opposite sex at church?
  • If you are married, do you have relationships with divorced people of the opposite sex at church?
  • Do you have any ideas of how the church can improve on this kind of situation, and create a safe place for those who are single and divorced?

 

photo credit: Infomastern Sunset silhouette via photopin (license)

Domestic Violence: Know Your Resources

Domestic Violence, Church Response, Resources

purple ribbons

-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.

This month I have asked the church to become educated about domestic violence, to re-evaluate beliefs that keep victims in abusive relationships, and to move into action to help victims of domestic abuse. Today, I want to focus on resources that the church should be aware of when helping victims of domestic violence.

Local & State

When a victim of domestic abuse comes the church asking for help, the church should have local resources readily available that can provide professional assistance. Here are some ideas to help you put your resource list together:

  • Police Chaplain – Talk to the Chaplain of your local police department to find out how the police are trained to respond to domestic violence calls. The Chaplain may know your local resource centers and shelters for victims.
  • State, County, and City resources – A simple Google search will help you identify resource centers, shelters, and victim compensation laws. Domestic violence resource centers are extremely helpful to victims who are pursuing restraining orders, are looking for counseling, or need other legal assistance.
  • State laws – For a better understanding of how officers cite offenders of domestic violence, read the laws. Petition your representatives when laws that affect victims of domestic violence are in process.
  • City roundtables – Check with your city office to see if they offer a roundtable that focuses on domestic violence. This is a great way to connect and network with local providers and advocates.
  • Shelters – Know the domestic violence shelters in your area. Unfortunately there are not enough shelters available for victims who need to leave their homes. Ask your shelters if your church can help support victims in any way.
  • Talk to Professionals: Identify people within your own congregation who might work with victims of domestic violence and talk to them about what is available in the community.

National

Knowing local resources is key to helping a victim of domestic violence obtain help. There are national resources that are helpful as well.

  • National Domestic Violence Hotline – This is a 24/7 staffed hotline that helps provide counseling to victims of domestic abuse, referrals to local resources, and information to people who are wanting to understand abuse. They also offer printable flyers and palm cards that you can stock in women’s restrooms or at front desks.
  • Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) – VAWA was drafted and signed by Congress in 1994. This act helps fund state victim’s compensation funds, domestic violence training, and local and tribal domestic violence resources. Immigrants may also apply for special visas if they have experienced domestic violence.

Educational

Here are more ideas about how you can educate yourself and your church members about domestic violence:

  • Domestic violence resource centers may have resource booklets that you can stock at your church. Many offer training to community members. Be open to hosting a training at your church.
  • The National Center on Domestic and Sexual Violence offers trainings and webinars across the country.
  • Do you have a YWCA in your city? Check to see if they offer training on domestic violence or shelters to victims.
  • Do you have a church library? Stock it with books about domestic violence and encourage members to read about the issue.

If you need help finding domestic violence resources in your area, please let us know by either leaving a comment or sending us an email at SpiritualSB@gmail.com. We are more than happy to help you start a list of resources that you can keep at your church when victims seek help.

The church can play a powerful role by offering healing and hope to victims of domestic violence. Make sure abusers are aware that the church will not tolerate abuse of any kind. Affirm victims that they are believed, cared for, and loved. Teach teens that abuse of any kind in relationships is not okay. Let the community know that you will defend and support victims of abuse. It is time for the church to stand up against abuse!

 

Domestic Violence: A Call to the Church for Action

Domestic Violence, Church Response, Action

purple ribbons

-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.

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. (James 2: 14 – 17)

Once the church becomes educated about domestic abuse, it should be compelled to step into action to help victims. Telling a victim that you will pray for her, and not offer any help, does her no good. Below are some ways that the church can actively help a victim of domestic violence.

Preach

Pastors, don’t think that domestic violence only happens outside of the church. Domestic violence knows no boundaries and it is best to assume that there may be a victim within your church walls. Start having the conversation now – staying silent about domestic violence does more harm than good. Not only should pastors preach against domestic violence, but educational opportunities should be sought through pre-marital counseling, youth groups, and men’s and women’s groups.

Call out the injustice of oppression of the weak. Call out the sin of violence within the home. Speak of the sin found in power and control. Offer healing to the broken-hearted and offer a voice to the wounded. Pastors, the more you preach about sin of domestic violence, the more you encourage victims to seek help and to heal.

Listen & Support

One of the best ways anyone can help a victim of domestic abuse is to listen. A victim may be hesitant to share about abuse happening in the home for fear of not being believed. Telling a victim that you believe her, and offering her a chance to tell her story, is essential in her ability to make decisions for her safety and for healing.

There are many reasons why victims choose not to leave their abuser. Don’t place judgement on the victim – continue listening. Not all abuse situations are the same. There are many dynamics to abuse and the more you listen, the better you will understand.

Remember that children are also victims of domestic violence, even if they were not the direct recipient of the abuse. Train children’s workers to listen and respond to children’s concerns or fears.

Safety

Safety should be the primary concern for a victim and any children involved in domestic violence. A victim’s concerns for safety should be taken seriously. Have someone available in the church who can help with safety planning or provide safe houses. Set aside funds to help victims obtain temporary shelter at a hotel if local resources are not available.

Pastors must be willing to address the abuser’s sin boldly. If abuse is not going to be tolerated in the church, then pastors must be willing to refuse being deceived by manipulative abusers. Churches that support the abuser increase the risk of harm to the victim. Abusers must be held accountable for their actions and victims’ lives must be held in high regard.

Refer

Churches must be willing to admit when they are unable to help a victim of abuse, and refer the victim to community outsources. Pastors, please know that community resources understand the value of faith that a victim may hold. In the same way, churches must learn to lean on community resources to help with counseling, advocacy, housing assistance, and financial assistance. Churches that are willing to partner with community resources are extending the love of Christ in a broken world.

Church, you can put your faith into action by actively speaking out against domestic violence, listening and supporting victims, seeking to keep victims safe, and working with community partners. Your stance against domestic violence will help victims to become stronger and save lives.

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

Domestic Violence, Church Response, Beliefs

purple ribbons

-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.

Suffering

The Bible never promises that life will be easy. Jesus told his disciples in John 16:33:

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.

Suffering can make a person stronger, or cause physical and emotional reactions that may take years for a victim to recover. The church can offer a victim of domestic abuse empathy and compassion. Faith can play an important part of healing for a victim when those within the spiritual community offer support and encouragement.

However, some churches teach that suffering is ordained by God, is a part of God’s will, and insist that Christians need to respond to suffering with joy. One only needs to go to The Gospel Coalition or Desiring God to see titles such as: 4 Reasons God Ordains Suffering for His People,  Don’t Waste Your Suffering, Seven Reasons You Owe Everything to Suffering, or Suffering Exposes Our Sin.

It is important to remember that abuse is about power and control. A victim of abuse experiences suffering involuntarily. Victims do not ask to be beaten, stalked, verbally assaulted, or sexually assaulted. The belief that a victim experiences suffering because it is God’s will makes God out to be cruel. Furthermore, a victim may choose to stay in an abusive relationship because they think that there is no other option or way out.

Marriage

The church places high value on the marriage relationship – almost to the point of making an idol out of marriage. For some, marriage idolatry is dangerous because divorce will never be never an option for a victim of domestic abuse. The marriage must be saved at all costs. (Lori Alexander is a fine example of this belief.)

When scripture from Ephesians, Corinthians, and Colossians is taught from the pulpit, a pastor may focus more on a wife’s role in the marriage than the husband’s. If a pastor misinterprets scripture and teaches that a wife must submit in all things, he is sending a message that abuse must be endured. This teaching also validates the abuser, and arms him with verses that support his authority in the marriage.

Scripture never provides husbands with power and control over the marriage relationship. God does not condone abuse.

Confession and Forgiveness

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9

When an abuser confesses his sin of abuse to a pastor, the pastor may think that he is humble and contrite, and will offer forgiveness. The pastor may then ask the victim to forgive her abuser, and then the matter is taken care of. The pastor with a mindset of forgive and forget does a disservice to the victim. Abuse will never be forgotten. It stays with a person forever.

The problem with “simple forgiveness” is that abusers are highly manipulative. An abuser will say what a pastor wants to hear, but the confession may not be true repentance. After the confession, there may be a pause in the abuse, but it will start up again at some point. However, repentance involves a change in behavior. An abuser must show that he is willing to seek assistance to change his thoughts, actions, and attitudes about power and control. Pastors can play an important role in making sure that abusers stay true to their word that they are willing to seek change.

A pastor must also be open to a victim expressing forgiveness at her own timing. Forgiveness must neither be assumed to aid in healing, nor be forced. A victim’s ability to forgive should not be based upon a pastor’s expectation, but upon her own timing which must be respected.

Role of Secular Resources

The church must recognize when it is not capable of helping a victim and should use community resources when available.

A church that thinks that leadership must investigate all cases of domestic abuse may place additional trauma or harm by the perpetrator on the victim. Pastors must understand that domestic abuse is a crime which must be investigated by proper authorities. If cases of domestic abuse are solely handled within the church, the abuse may never cease.

Unfortunately, there are many churches that refuse to refer victims of abuse to trauma-informed counseling. Churches which focus on a Biblical approach to counseling may add trauma by focusing on the sin of the victim. There is no sin that a victim can commit that justifies abuse. The sin is on the abuser, not the victim. Churches may also refer victims to marriage counseling. It is widely known that marriage counseling is not an appropriate form of counseling for abusive relationships because of the focus on mutual  contribution to the problem.

Churches must be aware of professionally trained resources within the community in which to refer a victim. These may include abuse advocacy, treatment, and intervention resources. Churches need not be afraid of community resources which aid victims, but should find value in partnering with resources for a victim’s best interest.

Church leaders, please take time to reevaluate your beliefs about marriage, gender roles within marriage, suffering, confession and forgiveness, and the use of outside resources. The way you respond to a victim of domestic abuse may mean life or death.

 

 

Domestic Violence: Education is the Key to Better Church Response

Domestic Violence, Church Response, Education

purple ribbons

-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 first time I was educated about domestic violence was in college as a ministry student 30 years ago. Sadly, I did not learn about the problem in any of my ministry classes. Church growth was the main focus at the time, not pastoral care. I pieced together my own ministry program that wasn’t offered, and included a class titled Violent Encounters in the Family. My eyes and heart were opened from that point on to advocate against abuse in any way possible.

I wrote my master’s thesis on Minister’s Knowledge, Views, and Attitudes Regarding Child Abuse. In 1996, my advisor thought this was unusual as she had never seen anything written about abuse from that perspective. Having been a ministry student, I knew that many pastors were not educated about abuse. My research, though very limited, confirmed that.

Education, I believe, is the first key for churches to effectively respond to domestic violence. The numbers from the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence are staggering:

1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men have been physically abused by an intimate partner.

1 in 5 women and 1 in 59 men in the United States is raped during her/his lifetime.

66.2% of female stalking victims reported stalking by a current or former intimate partner.

On a typical day, domestic violence hotlines nationwide receive approximately 20,800 calls.

1 in 3 female murder victims and 1 in 20 male murder victims are killed by an intimate partner.

With numbers like this, it should be easy for church leaders to recognize that they have victims of domestic violence within their congregation. LifeWay Research recently conducted a survey of 1,000 Protestant churches asking how they handle domestic violence situations. Some of the findings include:

37% of Protestant pastors are aware of an adult in their church who experienced domestic or sexual violence in the last 3 years.

Half of Protestant churches (52%) have a specific plan or procedures in place for how to respond if someone shares that they are experiencing domestic violence.

The most common specific resource churches have in place to offer someone
experiencing domestic violence is a referral list with professional counselors trained in domestic violence.

60% would investigate whether domestic violence is really present.

Some of these numbers are encouraging; however, I find the fact that such a high percentage of pastors feel the need to “investigate” concerning. Investigation should be done by the police.

I recognize that there are church leaders who have taken the time to educate themselves and the church community about abuse. I have heard very encouraging stories from victims about how their church community is supporting them. However, we still have leaders, such as John Piper, saying that a woman needs to “endure verbal abuse for a season, and she endures perhaps being smacked one night, and then she seeks help from the church.” The church can do better.

Paige Patterson, once the Southern Baptist Conference leader,  discussed the “proper way for women to receive beatings.” The arrogance and attitude toward women in this 4 minute clip is disgusting. The church can do better.

Women, such as Lori Alexander, say “seek help for physical abuse,” then turn around and say, “the word abuse is overused,” and finally, encourage women to win over their angry husband. Divorce is never an option for an abused wife. The church can do better.

“Pastors” such as Doug Wilson are promoted and quoted by organizations like The Gospel Coalition (TGC) and Desiring God. TGC removed a post that quoted Wilson’s book, Fidelity: What it Means to be a One Woman Man. “A man penetrates, conquers, colonizes, plants. A woman receives, surrenders, accepts.” The fact that TGC initially thought this sexually aggressive wording was fine to promote is appalling. The church can do better.

Then, we have Mark Driscoll rising from the ashes. While at Mars Hill, Driscoll wasted no words in disparaging anyone who was alive and breathing. His words about women, if taken seriously, were enough to make men think they must have power and control in relationships. Women were called “penis homes” and were told to provide oral sex to their husbands because it is “biblical.” Men were encouraged to have their wives watch them masturbate so that the act is not seen as a form of homosexuality. The church MUST do better!

This is what the church needs to know:

  • Domestic violence can occur in any relationship.
  • Domestic violence happens in “Godly, Christian” families.
  • Abuse is always about power and control. It includes physical, sexual, verbal, emotional, financial, and spiritual abuse, as well as stalking.
  • Abuse crosses age, socio-economic, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, and national boundaries.
  • Please take abuse seriously. Always listen to the victim.
  • Abuse can cause physical disabilities, emotional trauma, or death.
  • Abuse can cross generations and last a lifetime.

There are many excellent resources available to learn about domestic violence. Please, church, become educated and be willing to open yourself up to helping victims. Every abuse situation is different, so the more you know means you’ll be better prepared to help someone in need. The following is a sample of excellent resources available:

National Domestic Violence Hotline – This resource offers a 24/7 hotline for victims of domestic violence. There is also a lot of information about domestic violence on their website.

National Resource Center on Domestic Violence – “A comprehensive source of information for those wanting to educate themselves and help others on the many issues related to domestic violence.”

A Cry for Justice – Blog dedicated to addressing domestic violence and abuse within the Evangelical church.

No Place for Abuse: Biblical and Practical Resources to Counteract Domestic Violence, by Catherine Clark Kroeger and Nancy Nason-Clark.

CBE International – Offers articles and book reviews about domestic violence.

“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)

 

 

The Dangerous Teachings of Lori Alexander of The Transformed Wife

Lori Alexander, Depression, Suicide

-by Julie Anne and Kathi

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Lori Alexander (Facebook photo)

Lori Alexander runs a blog and Facebook page called The Transformed Wife. Her Facebook page has over 21,000 followers! She models her ministry using the Titus 2 idea of older women teaching younger women. After 23 years of a difficult marriage, she claims her marriage improved after she applied God’s principles to her life; so she feels qualified to share with her followers how she learned to submit to her husband, and thus, have a happy marriage.

Lori appeals to women who want to be godly and obedient wives, serving their husbands. But as Kathi and I read her articles, we are alarmed by some of her teachings. Some of them put wives in harm’s way. Other teachings minimize serious mental health issues, or attempt to solve them by simply praying.

We are thankful to a reader on our Facebook page that brought to our attention Lori’s recent actions. Lori wrote a post this past week about depression and suicide among women and linked the post to her Facebook page.

We were sent this screenshot which shows a woman stating that she contemplated taking her own life. Lori’s response is to go to the Bible for strength. Thankfully, another reader responded with the advice to seek help immediately through the suicide hotline. Continue reading

Lori Alexander’s Damaging Advice Regarding Depression

Lori Alexander, Depression, Counseling

-by Kathi

Lori Alexander recently posted a YouTube video on her channel titled, “Stop Feeling Sorry For Yourself.”

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I have to ask this first: Why are people still making videos of themselves in their cars? I guess Lori was driving somewhere, had an inspirational moment about self-pity, and just had to record her thoughts right away. Does she want us to know that she actually does get out of the house?

Lori tells us that she has had years of illness, brain surgery, and problems with her neck and back, and watched those around her enjoy life. But her illnesses didn’t stop her from feeling sorry for herself. She learned from Oswald Chambers that self-pity is Satanic, therefore she wants nothing to do with self-pity.

Lori offers the following teaching for how to deal with suffering:

  1. Repeat: “The joy of the Lord is my strength” and “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
  2. Listen to praise songs.
  3. Study I Peter and Philippians over and over. Renew your mind with God’s truth.
  4. Understand that you cannot be thankful and grateful if you are full of self-pity.
  5. Kick out self-pity quickly.

Lori acknowledges that depression and self-pity may be due to a bad childhood, abuse, or “whatever.” (Seriously, “whatever?” She is so empathetic.) Here’s the thing, folks….Lori Alexander is not a trained counselor and has no business telling people how to deal with depression!

Lori’s advice is dangerous because victims of childhood trauma and adult victims of abuse don’t just “kick out self-pity quickly.” Our brain is a complex creature and no one deals with trauma the same way. Telling people to “get over it” is not helpful and is more damaging. It is spiritually abusive to tell people that if they can’t stop feeling sorry for themselves then they don’t trust in God. Don’t fall for this lie. Continue reading

How Lori Alexander’s Teaching May Keep Women in Abusive Relationships

Lori Alexander, Emotional Abuse, Headship, Submission

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-by Kathi

I’ve been reading Lori Alexander’s blogs for quite a while now. Just when I think her writing is the same old boring rhetoric she always blathers on about, she ups her game. Her recent post, “How Not to Get Married” is one that actually should be titled, “Five Easy Steps to Ensure You Stay In an Abusive Relationship.” Continue reading

Pastor Phil Johnson Shows His Heart toward Domestic Violence Victim

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

Continue reading

R.C. Sproul, Jr. Steps Down from Ligonier Ministries and Reformation Bible College

R.C. Sproul, Jr., Ligonier Ministries, Abuse, Reformation Bible College


 

R.C. Sproul, Jr., Ligonier Ministries, Spiritual Abuse, Spiritual Sounding Board

Twitter Photo (note the lock indicating the account is now private)

 

Ligonier Ministries has reported that RC Sproul, Jr. is stepping down from Ligonier Ministries & Reformation Bible College citing personal reasons: Continue reading

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 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

Saeed Abedini: Files for Divorce, Seeks Money for New Ministry, and Recently Arrested for Violating Restraining Order

Saeed Abedini, Naghmeh, Divorce, Domestic Violence, Arrest for Violating Restraining Order, Seeks Money for New Ministry


Pastor Saeed Abedini Divorce Arrest Domestic Violence Nahmeh

Photo from Facebook

Yesterday, Naghmeh Abedini, wife of Saeed Abedini, reported on Facebook that her husband had filed for divorce.

It is with a heavy and broken heart that I inform all of you who have prayed and wept with our family the last few years, that Saeed has rejected counseling for anger and abuse and has filed for a divorce. There will be a time to share more fully, but for now, we appreciate your prayers.

Today, Saeed Abedini released a statement about the divorce on his Facebook page:

“My heart is deeply saddened to be sharing the news that Naghmeh and I will be divorcing. She has been my wife of 12 years and she will always be the wonderful mother to our amazing children. While we have experienced struggles, she, along with my children will forever be my heroes, both for what they had to deal with during my imprisonment in Iran and for how they never gave up fighting for my freedom.

There are no words to describe the ongoing effect of the trauma I experienced and my family has experienced both during and in the aftermath of my imprisonment. We are different people, and we are hurting people. It pains me to say, but I have decided the only path toward healing is apart, and not together. Sometimes as Christians, we experience pain for which there is no explanation in this life, yet we must continue, even in the hardest of times, to look to Christ for strength, grace and comfort. I am trying to do that now, and I know Nagmeh is doing the same. Even in our disappointments, when we don’t have all the answers, Christ is still Lord. He is good now and forever.” (Source)

It was also reported in the Idaho Statesman that earlier this year, Saeed Abedini was arrested for violation of restraining order:

Earlier this year, Saeed Abedina [sic] was arrested on three misdemeanor counts of violation of a restraining order. Those Ada County cases are still going through the court system.

Meanwhile, Saeed Abedini has moved away from Idaho, away from his children and is starting up a new ministry (Facebook note):

Dear Friends

As you all know I was in prison for more than 3/5 years because Jesus met me 16 years ago and told me ; ” Iam coming back soon Go to preach my Gospel ” and until today I didn’t disobey him and I will never disobey Him.

I want to start a preaching Ministry to hundred thousand people and for this new start, I don’t have any financial support yet.

I need to have 200 people in 2 months who can support my ministry monthly with donating just 20 $ each month to start. You can be one of them, specially if you prayed for me for years.

I need your help to make Jesus known and I can’t do it without your help.

Please send me a massage [sic] and your email in my inbox which I can know when our team is completed to start and send you a news letter.

Continue reading

Would your church be able to help someone in the midst of a crisis? How equipped are they?

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Before we get into today’s article, we’ve passed an important milestone here. Today, I noticed in my Facebook’s “On This Day” feature, that it is the 4th year anniversary date of the judge’s decision on the defamation lawsuit brought on by my former pastor, Chuck O’Neal of Beaverton Grace Bible Church (BGBC) vs. me and 4 others. Our attorney filed an anti-SLAPP counter suit which meant that O’Neal and BGBC had to prove that our case met the legal definition of defamation. It did not. Not even one phrase that I used (or anyone else used) met even the first tier of the defamation definition (that we had intentionally lied). In order Chuck O’Neal to have won, he had to prove that we knowingly lied about him, AND, we lied with the intent to harm. Judge Fun dismissed the entire case.

When I think back on four years, the amount of information I have learned is remarkable. So much of that has been because of you. Thank you. God has restored what the locust has eaten. Through my pain and now the information I’ve learned along the way, SSB has been a safe and a growing place for me and for others. Yea God.

Here’s the note that appeared on my timeline 4 years ago by a friend:

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Chuck O'Neal, Beaverton Grace Bible Church, spiritual abuse, defamation lawsuit, spiritual bullies

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Would your church be able to help someone in the midst of a crisis? How equipped are they?

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A Challenge to Abused Christian Women Regarding Teachings on Divorce

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Saeed Abedini and Franklin Graham Promote “Couples Counseling” to Reconcile the Abedinis. Because of Saeed’s Abuse, is This Counterproductive?

Experts on the dynamics of abuse strongly recommend separate, individual counseling for abuser and victim, not couples counseling. If abusers refuse to work through individual counseling on their personal issues, that creates a stumbling block to relational reconciliation.

This blog post was written by Julie Anne Smith, with contributions by Brad Sargent. The post was reviewed by Naghmeh Abedini.

Key Points:

  • Counselors with expertise on dynamics of abuse recommend individual counseling – for both the husband and wife – not couples counseling. Couples counseling implies the abuse is equally both partners’ fault, when this type of abuse is definitely more one-sided. It will never be “fixed” if the abuser does not address the personal problem first, and couples counseling gives the abuser multiple opportunities to manipulate the situation and triangulate – get the counselor to side with him against the victim.
  • On Valentine’s Day, Saeed Abedini sent a Facebook message about love to his supporters, thanking them for their love, prayers, and encouragement. But, in his post, he also implied that his wife, Naghmeh, is blocking progress in their relationship by not joining him in couples counseling. The context and the language give an example of manipulating the situation to get public opinion to side with him.
  • Franklin Graham, who has acted as an advocate/promoter for Saeed Abedini since his release, has no known expertise on the dynamics of abuse, yet has pressured Saeed and Naghmeh Abedini toward couples counseling.

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Yesterday, Pastor Saeed Abedini, who was recently released from an Iranian prison, posted the following note as his first Facebook post in 4 years, thanking his many supporters:

Warm Greetings Dear Saints!

We Love because He first Loved us. (1John 4:19)

This is my first post on Facebook after 4 long years of imprisonment. I see there is a LOVE story between us as I went through hardship of imprisonment by you showing your support with sending hundreds & thousands of letters of encouragement and LOVE to the prison. 1000’s of cities and countries and locations gathering for pray vigils, sending gifts to my wife and children, etc.. .
You created a LOVE story that even Muslims in Iran talked about.

My beloved sisters and brothers, I want you to know how much I LOVE you and how much Your prayers and support changed my situation and how much I am thankful for your heart and Care.
I am grateful for marriage counselors who have been helping me but my wife’s relationship with me is not good at this point, so we need prayer that she joins this counseling process with us.

Free By Christ For Christ
Saeed Abedini

 

On his post, he included pictures of himself and his beautiful children, including this one:

12716440_10206091066255298_66885656804089378_o.jpg

 

Some will look at the Facebook note and pictures and will:

  • Thank God for his release.
  • Thank God that Saeed is back together with his children again.
  • Be thankful that they were in consistent prayer for the Abedini family all these years.
  • Notice Naghmeh’s absence from the pictures.
  • Be moved to pray for Naghmeh, that she would change her heart and seek marriage counseling.

In less than 24 hours since his post went up on Valentine’s Day – February 14, 2016 – at 7:38 pm, there have already been over 3,500 “likes,” 425 shares, and 750 comments. Many who reached out to Saeed left supportive comments, encouraging him with their words, and saying they were praying for Saeed, for his marriage, for his family. However, a few commenters have been critical of Naghmeh directly, and some have attempted to shut down any commenters who bring up the Saeed’s issue abuse, primarily through “sin-leveling.”

You can read those for yourself to see how they are responding overall to him, to her, to them. Meanwhile, let’s consider his post more closely. I’ve seen Saeed’s language and approach before. It’s typical flowery manipulative abuser language meant to draw people to his side. Notice the context, plus what he puts there, what he doesn’t mention, and what is missing:

  • The pictures of Saeed and his children, with Naghmeh obviously missing tugs at people’s heartstrings knowing that this family is not whole.
  • There could be no better day to choose than Valentines Day to solicit support for his cause.  People will notice the contrast in the day when most people are celebrating love, he is soliciting support by revealing that Naghmeh is dropping the ball on marriage counseling.
  • A healthy pastor with no vindictive agenda would have briefly said, “Pray for my family.” But instead, Saeed blames his wife under the guise of soliciting prayers for the “marital” problems. For instance, note how he says that “my wife’s relationship with me is not good” – not, “my relationship with my wife is not good” or even “our relationship is not good.” Even from just that one twist of a sentence, how easy is it now for Saeed’s supporters to see Naghmeh as the stumbling block to reconciliation, and certainly not Saeed?
  • These words are not words of humility and honesty. They are manipulative words meant to draw people into Saeed’s sad plight. Even if we were to assume that the problem is a marital issue, an honest response would be one where he admits his failures as well. We see none of that.
  • A husband interested in saving his marriage would never put his wife under the proverbial bus by publicly disclosing her faults … ever. He would protect her at all costs and try to win her back.

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It’s important to note that there is more going on here than just Saeed and Naghmeh. Their relationship has been …. crowded. Prior to Saeed’s public notice on Facebook, Franklin Graham has been a primary mouthpiece for Saeed since his release. Saeed flew home to the US on Graham’s private plane, and the first pictures of him are with Franklin Graham. Saeed was immediately whisked off to the Billy Graham Training Center in North Carolina. Saeed’s first interview after his release was with Graham’s friend, Greta VanSusteran.

Franklin Graham inserted himself directly into the heart of the Saeed Abedini story, and we all heard about the Abedini family, filtered through his personal perspective – that Saeed and Naghmeh have a troubled marriage and need counseling. Here is what Franklin Graham posted on his Facebook page days after Saeed’s release:

While we rejoice at his new freedom, we now lift him and his wife Naghmeh to the Lord for healing in their marriage. Other than God, no one knows the details and the truth of what has happened between Saeed and Naghmeh except them. There’s an old saying that there are at least two sides to every story. I can tell one thing for sure—not everything that has been reported in the media is true.

As a minister of the Gospel, I have tried to be a friend to both and to assist them in getting Saeed home and in getting access to any help that they may need. Clearly, there is a great need for prayer for their relationship and their family. God has answered prayer by bringing about Saeed’s release from prison, and now, Satan would like nothing more than to continue to destroy their lives. It is my prayer that this will not happen. (Source)

More about Franklin Graham’s prominent role in a moment.

Returning to Saeed’s Facebook post, I found his comment, “we need prayer that she joins this counseling process with us,” conflicting with the public messages Naghmeh has reported. I have read nothing about Naghmeh not wanting to have the marriage restored. Nor have I read anything about Naghmeh not wanting to seek counseling, so I contacted Naghmeh.

After hearing from Naghmeh, I believe Saeed is misleading people with his comments, and in turn, is turning people away from Naghmeh and painting her to be the primary problem.

Naghmeh confirmed to me that she has indeed been and is currently seeking individual counseling. She gave me the name of her counselors (which will remain private). She also mentioned another well-known therapist/author with whom she has been in touch for additional counsel. Naghmeh has also stated publicly that her pastor, Bob Caldwell, is aware of Saeed’s abuse and of the appropriate boundaries she has sought to put in place.

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Now, some may wonder why Naghmeh is only seeking private counseling versus marital counseling. Keep in mind that a few months ago, Naghmeh revealed that during most of her marriage, she has been the victim of abuse by Saeed. Is couples counseling the best choice of action for a marriage in which there is abuse?  Abuse experts are in agreement that couples counseling is not appropriate when there is abuse. The National Domestic Violence Hotline has an article, Why We Don’t Recommend Couples Counseling for Abusive Relationships, and offers further explanation:

In order for couples counseling to be successful, both partners must be willing to take responsibility for their actions and make adjustments to their behavior. Abusive people want all of the power and control in the relationship and will focus on maintaining that imbalance, even if it means continuing unhealthy and hurtful behavior patterns. Many callers to the Hotline have related stories of trying and “failing” at couples counseling because of an abusive partner’s focus on manipulating the sessions to place blame, minimize the abuse, and attempt to win over the therapist to their side. If the therapist tries to hold the abusive partner accountable for these tactics, they will often refuse to attend further sessions and may even forbid their partner to see the “biased” therapist again. The abusive partner may even choose to escalate the abuse because they feel their power and control was threatened.

We can see evidence of this type of control in Saeed’s public comment. He minimized the abuse by never even mentioning this topic and, as mentioned earlier, he also put blame on Naghmeh for not seeking counseling.  Saeed displayed common tactics of abusers.

Some may dismiss secular counselors’ views on separating couples when there is abuse. This article, “When NOT to Do Marriage Counseling,” gives a Christian perspective. It is by Winston T. Smith who teaches and counsels at Christian Counseling & Educational Foundation (CCEF). He sees the importance of individual counseling over couples counseling when abuse is present in the relationship:

However, there are situations in which marriage counseling is not the best approach and may actually do more harm than good. Marriage counseling presumes that a couple’s problems are shared and that each spouse is partly responsible for what is happening. But there are situations in which one spouse’s behavior is so destructive (e.g., addictions, abuse) that marital problems are best understood primarily as the result of that behavior, rather than the shared responsibility of both spouses. In these situations, it is best to focus on that individual before addressing the marriage. There are other times when one spouse’s weaknesses, hidden issues, or lack of motivation may limit the effectiveness of marriage counseling. Here again, it may be wise to meet with spouses separately for a season, both to address individual problems and to lay the groundwork for working with the couple together.

Winston T. Smith further explains the character and behavior of abusers:

“[A]buse is a pattern of destructive and dehumanizing words and behaviors that often involves physical battering, intimidation, and attempts to isolate and control. If it becomes clear that abuse is present in a marriage, arrange to see the spouses separately.”

Here is another article you may want to read on the importance of separate counseling: To fix abusive relationships, a counselor must have expertise. The principles in this article are especially important to thinking through the larger context of counseling in this all-too-public relationship. That is because it appears that someone with no understanding of abuse has been pushing for couples counseling: Franklin Graham.

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Ok, now with regard to my conversation with Naghmeh, I think it is important to note that Saeed has not personally reached out to Naghmeh since he has been back in the US. It has only been through Franklin Graham, on Graham’s initiative, not Saeed’s. It should be noted that the post from Saeed on Facebook was really the first time Naghmeh has seen/heard anything directly from Saeed on the subject.

Franklin Graham has been the one to push “marriage counseling.” Why is that? Franklin Graham has not demonstrated any expertise on abuse issues that I am aware of. He has no business putting himself above this couple and telling them how to solve their issues. Why has he intervened to take a pastoral/oversight role here? Why isn’t he backing away from the situation and allowing Pastor Bob Caldwell, their long-time pastor, to do his job?

Naghmeh had been counseled by her pastor and her counselors that the “abuse must be dealt with first before any marriage counseling can occur.” But that is not the setup Franklin Graham devised. Naghmeh specifically noted that when Saeed came to the US, Franklin Graham first “wanted to put us in a cabin together” at Billy Graham’s training facility, The Cove. Naghmeh declined this offer and only agreed to go if there was counseling, and separate cabins with guards. Graham finally “agreed and picked marriage counselors.”

Naghmeh realized what was going on, and at the last minute changed her mind, knowing she could not go under the conditions Graham had created. She knew that individual counseling had to be first, and this was not the direction Graham’s chosen counselors planned to take. His path was solely couples counseling.

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In conclusion, I hope that it is clear that Naghmeh has not declined counseling. She has already been seeking appropriate counseling for the specific issue that has destroyed her marriage: abuse by her husband, Saeed.  If there is no success in individual counseling for Saeed and Naghmeh, no marital/couples counseling will be beneficial. The horse must come before the cart.

I applaud Naghmeh for seeking wise guidance in her very difficult and public crisis. She could have easily followed the very powerful and influential Franklin Graham, but his way is not the recommended path chosen by those with expertise on the dynamics of abuse. In fact, his way would have enabled delay in addressing the issues involved. His way would have been counterproductive for Saeed and Naghmeh as individuals, and for their marriage relationship.