Bethlehem Baptist Church Excommunicates Victim of Domestic Violence

Bethlehem Baptist Church, Domestic Violence, Emotional Abuse, Excommunication, Spiritual Abuse


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Over a year ago (November 1, 2016), I posted the article, 1-1/2 years Later, Bethlehem Baptist Church Doesn’t Seem to get Domestic Violence: A Personal Story. I have a followup to that article.

For those who have never read the story, I will repost most of the article here, and then will catch you up on new developments.


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

Nov. 1, 2016

Almost 1-1/2 years ago, I wrote an article about John Piper’s former church, Bethlehem Baptist Church (BBC) regarding domestic violence, Encouraging Shift from Bethlehem Baptist Church Regarding Domestic Abuse and Care for Abused Women. Around that time, BBC pastor, Jason Meyer, preached a sermon and humbly expressed how he and his church had not handled domestic violence appropriately.

You can listen to the sermon or read the transcript here: Fooled by False Leadership

The following is the opening paragraph of the Elders’ Statement which was also released at the same time:

Elders’ Statement on Domestic Abuse
We, the council of elders at Bethlehem Baptist Church, are resolved to root out all forms of domestic abuse (mental, emotional, physical, and sexual) in our midst. This destructive way of relating to a spouse is a satanic distortion of Christ-like male leadership because it defaces the depiction of Christ’s love for his bride. The shepherds of Bethlehem stand at the ready to protect the abused, call abusers to repentance, discipline the unrepentant, and hold up high the stunning picture of how much Christ loves his church.

I was cautiously optimistic about the steps Bethlehem Baptist seemed to be taking. They brought in professionals to help them learn and understand domestic violence signs. They professed to want a heart to empathize with women who were harmed by domestic violence.

One domestic violence case was ongoing at that time. Natalie had reached out to the Bethlehem Baptist leaders for help years earlier. But now, the church leadership was doing a complete overhaul in how they were going to counsel when there was abuse involved . . . . or so they implied.

One of the most destructive forms of abuse is emotional abuse. It’s destructive because it can go on for years. A wife (or husband) can get so beaten down by emotional abuse that she minimizes her own abuse, or blames herself for the abuse. When a woman finally understands what is happening to her and eventually reaches out for help, a lot of time has gone under the bridge. The very last thing she needs is to prove to her church leadership that she is being abused. But that is exactly what happens to so many survivors. The victim has to plead her case before her church leaders and is put on trial to see if the abuse she has claimed is in fact true.

It’s important to note that the church leaders at BBC were trained to understand about emotional abuse. Here is a quote from Pastor Meyer’s sermon from 1-1/2  years ago:

Emotional abuse is a pattern in the use of words and actions to assault, reorder, and control the emotions and affective state of the other person for the achievement of selfish ends. The more intense and longstanding the pattern, the more destructive it is to people.

So now, 1-1/2 years later, where is Natalie, and how has her case been handled?

I’ll let Natalie’s words speak for herself:

Full text:

Last night the elders of Bethlehem Baptist shared a few blatant lies along with some half-truths spun in context of those lies. They planted a few false ideas that never came up in my case (infidelity?) as well as left out pertinent information in order to flavor their testimony against me to the congregation. They did this publically and shamelessly. They murdered me last night in the eyes of many people who will never have access to the truth. I’ve been scared to death for years of what they could do to me. How they could ruin my life. But I’m pretty sure lying about me and shaming me is the worst they can do. What they’ve indirectly done to my children is the thing that really breaks my heart and pisses me off.

Are you my friend? You scared to stand with me? The BIG D for Divorce will be on my chest soon, and I’m the one who initiated it! Sinner Woman. Jezebel. The unforgiveable sin. I’m a pariah now. An outcast. All because I couldn’t gut out the hell of being married to my Ex for another 25 years.

I’m sick to death of living in fear of destructive men and organizations who control other people by using THE BIBLE. By claiming they have the radar on God while others don’t. They say I was not emotionally abused by my Ex for 24 years. Like they know. They call my story a “biased narrative” so they can minimize and dismiss it. They say I have no right to divorce him. They dismiss the 23 years I worked my butt off trying to fix my marriage, cooperate with all the men-leaders, be respectful, be vulnerable, grovel in sorrow and repentance, and obey – and when I finally say I can’t do it anymore – my kids need me, I need to heal, to focus on God, to move forward, they call me “resistant.” I needed and asked for friendship and love. They betrayed me with a smile on their face and a Bible verse on their lips. They use spiritual abuse to control women and children and even other men. This is reprehensible, and I will spend the rest of my life exposing it wherever I see it.

Call me angry. Call me rebellious. Call me a lunatic. Call me a bitch. Call me whatever you want. Spew out your venomous lies to serve your misogynistic agendas. My Creator calls me Beloved. He calls me Daughter, and I choose to believe and obey Him. No more groveling. No more apologies. I wanted to keep this private and protect my Ex and my church. But Bethlehem is just chomping at the bit to excommunicate me publically [sic]. Fine. You want to bring this to the public square? (And don’t drivel about how it’s “private” within the church. That’s a silly notion rooted in unreality.)

I dare you to show support. And if you can’t – you’re no real friend of mine and no real friend of women and children, in general. You’re only a cog in the well-oiled system of abuse. Be gone from me.

Yes. There’s a big, fat, deep line in the sand, and it’s time to rock and roll.

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I think BBC leadership has forgotten what they were committed to do 1-1/2 years ago:

Remember the point of these passages in 2 Corinthians and the emphasis on deceit, disguise, and cunning. Abusers are not walking around wearing wife-beater shirts any more than Satan’s servants are going to carry pitchforks or have 666 tattooed on their foreheads. Abusers can be so charming around other people—that is part of the deception. Do you think they will really show their true colors in public? Don’t judge by appearances and discount what a woman says with flippant incredulity. Think about how much she is risking by saying anything at all. Take it seriously. Tell her that you believe her, that God hates abuse, and that you are committed to help her.


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New Development: November 2017

Last month, November 2017, Natalie was sent the following letter from Bethlehem Baptist Church:

Bethlehem Baptist Church, Domestic Violence, Emotional Abuse, Spiritual Abuse, Chuck Steddom,

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Text reads:

November 16, 2017

Dear Natalie,

This letter is to inform you that, as per your request for membership removal from Bethlehem Baptist Church, action was taken on October 29, 2017, at a regular quarterly business meeting of the members of Bethlehem Baptist Church to dismiss you from membership by reason of church discipline.

We love you Natalie and will continue to pray for you and your family.

Respectfully,

Chuck Steddom, Lead Pastor

Bethlehem Baptist Church, south campus

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You read that right. When Natalie came to the conclusion that the leadership at Bethlehem Baptist was not willing to truly support her, and instead wanted her to remain married to her emotionally abusive spouse, she left the church and requested they remove her from church membership. This letter was their response. Natalie was excommunicated from Bethlehem Baptist Church.

Wives are expected to remain married to their emotionally abusive spouses. You have to go through hoops to pass their test before they give you permission to make a decision like divorce. They did not live in her home to experience what she went through, yet sitting from their comfortable office chairs, they can make a decision to keep a family in harm’s way, in an emotional prison, or encourage them to move on and reject the evil that has perpetrated their lives.

Natalie is now in a safe place. She is divorced and is happy starting her new life.

Natalie posted these thoughts about receiving the excommunication letter:

The recent letter of excommunication from Bethlehem Baptist has me reflecting on those years of trying to get help.

When I stood up for myself, I was told I was over stepping.

When I fell apart I was told to consider whether or not I was operating out of the victim mentality or as a child of God.

I was told that my emails were too long and it took a long time to process them.

I was told to back off.

I was told I had him under a microscope.

When I forwarded educational articles on the subject of abuse, I was told to be cautious about the messages that I was getting from those articles.

I was given the message that, as a victim, I knew little. They were my “rescuers” and they knew best.

I was told what to do and when to do it, and if I didn’t do it their way, I was rebuked. Eventually they told me I was “not under their authority.”

When I finally said I appreciated their
“Help” but I was ready to move forward with some other options, I was told I made them feel bad for “firing” them.

In reality the victim knows more about her situation than anyone. Wise helpers listen and learn. They don’t control and dictate.

 

Despite the fact that leaders at Bethlehem Baptist Church had specialized training from domestic violence experts, I cannot encourage anyone to attend this church. The leaders at the Bethlehem Baptist Churches are ill-equipped to handle domestic violence. Their instructions can put women in harm’s way.

If you are a domestic violence survivor and currently in counseling at Bethlehem Baptist, and things have not improved on the on the home front, I encourage you to seek outside, even secular counsel. It is not God’s plan that any woman remain a prisoner in her own home with an evil tyrant.

If you need any help, Kathi and I have collected resources and are happy to help you find information in your area. Please do not hesitate to reach out. We know how difficult this is.

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

Guest Post: If “Jane” from TMU were to seek “Biblical counseling” #DoYouSeeUs

Biblical Counseling, Nouthetic Counseling, “Jane” #DoYouSeeUs, John MacArthur, The Master’s University

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Dr. Dan Allender: Trauma, Our Personal Stories, and Recovery through Music

Dr. Dan Allender, Trauma, Music, Spiritual Abuse Recovery, Personal Stories


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Those who have been reading here for a while know how important I believe it is for survivors to tell their abuse stories. It took a while for us to believe the lies our church leader(s) told us about who we are and who God is. Eventually, through manipulation and deceit, we then told ourselves those lies. These “recordings” played over and over in our minds until they were perceived as normal. This is all part of thought reform, patterns of coercion, manipulation, and control, that cult leaders use to keep us emotionally and spiritually bound to them and their teachings.

When we are finally in a place where we can identify truth from lies, we still have to wrestle with the recordings that play in our minds that attempt to shift us back to the dangerous teachings we heard. I strongly believe that hearing ourselves speak the truth when we tell our stories will eventually override the old and damaging recordings in our mind.

I believe this is why many survivors have a need to tell our stories over and over again. It doesn’t mean we are living in the past. No. I believe it means we are validating our experience and further pushing that false and destructive narrative out of our minds.

Telling stories is empowering. It gives us strength to stand on our own two feet and use our critical thinking skills. We own our stories, even though they are negative. But now, as we tell our stories safe from our abuser, we are in control, not our abusive spiritual leaders. We speak not as one who remains stuck as a victim, but as a survivor who can incorporate the negative experience into the fabric of our bigger life story in a positive way. It shapes us, it softens and humbles us. It still hurts at times, but we can become more resilient and intentional with this trauma behind us.

May we never tire of listening to the stories of survivors. When we do listen, we validate them and help them to become whole. Also, if we are survivors, may we never tire of telling our stories without apologies. It may be just what a listener needs to hear.

Lately, I’ve been reading about our body’s response to trauma, and this 2-minute video is fascinating. In it, Dr. Dan Allender helps us to understand the power of music used as a healing agent in relation to trauma. Continue reading

Kari Benton Shares: Spiritual Recovery after a Lawsuit and Spiritual Abuse

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Pastor Chuck O’Neal Continues to Pull the Wool over His Evangelist Friends’ Eyes

Chuck O’Neal, Beaverton Grace Bible Church, Jeff Rose, Dr. Edward Delcour, Mike Gendron, Mike Stockwell, and Robert Gray, Evangelism Reformation Conference, Reformation Fire Conference

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Blog Series: Spiritual Abuse in the Church: A Guide to Recognition and Recovery by Pastor Ken Garrett, Wk 2

Spiritual Abuse, Pastor Ken Garrett, Spiritual Abuse in the church: A Guide to Recognition and Recovery


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Pastor Ken Garrett, Spiritual Abuse, Spiritual Abuse in the Church: A Guide to Recognition and Recovery

Pastor Ken Garrett

Ok, here we go, plowing through Pastor Ken Garret’s dissertation about spiritual abuse. I used the word plowing intentionally. For some of us, it will be work. It is not enjoyable to be reminded about difficult experiences. However, some push that pain under the rug and haven’t been able to process it in a safe environment. If you feel ready to do that, come along and join us. Even if you don’t feel ready, you can still read. And for those who have never experienced spiritual abuse, I’m grateful that you are reading, too. Having compassion and understanding is so important in helping someone who has gone through spiritual abuse.

Just an FYI, Ken has removed his dissertation from his blog because he plans to publish it into a book. Ken has graciously allowed us to continue using his original dissertation for this series. (Thanks, Ken!!!)

Well, let’s dig in. Here is the very meaty paragraph we will start with this week:

Abusive churches, past and present, are primarily characterized by strong, control-oriented leadership. These leaders use guilt, fear, and intimidation to manipulate members and keep them in line. Followers are led to think that there is no other church quite like theirs and that God has singled them out for special purposes.

Other, more traditional evangelical churches are put down. Subjective experience is emphasized and dissent is discouraged. Many areas of members’ lives are subject to scrutiny. Rules and legalism abound. People who do not follow the rules or who threaten exposure are often dealt with harshly.

Excommunication is common. For those who leave, the road back to normalcy is difficult, with seemingly few who understand the phenomena of spiritual abuse.

Continue reading

Christian Blogger Invited to Speak at Free Thinkers’ Meeting about Abuse in Christian Churches

Free Thinker, Atheist, Christian Blogger, Thought Reform, Patriarchy, Spiritual Abuse, Cults




Last Sunday, I had the privilege of speaking at a Free Thinkers group. Privilege, some might ask? You bet. I will take any opportunity afforded to share the truth, set the record straight, and especially let people know that I, as a Christian, am displeased by the state of the Body of Christ when it comes to abuse and our response to abuse.

I feel I have a connection with many atheists. You see, when my defamation lawsuit went viral, I received over 500 emails of support. Many of those emails were sent by people who were harmed in the church, and then became atheist. This was originally a surprise to me, and  it saddened me. So many of these folks get spiritual abuse. They see the dysfunction and hypocrisy of celebrity pastors and leaders. Many of them are upset by what they see, and rightly so. If only those within the Body of Christ would get worked up about it!

It all started when I was in my Environmental Science class at school. Continue reading

An Abuse Survivor’s Response to Pastor Phil Johnson’s Insensitive Tweet on Domestic Violence

Phil Johnson, Grace Community Church, Sex Abuse, Domestic Violence, Twitter


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Blog reader, Christina, left an important comment on yesterday’s post regarding an insensitive and callous tweet Pastor Phil Johnson sent out regarding domestic violence. His tweet created quite an uproar on Twitter. Because Christina’s comment is addressed to Phil Johnson, I didn’t want it to get lost in the shuffle. It is excellent. Thank you, Christina for sharing.  ~Julie Anne


Response to Phil Johnson

Dear Phil. I guess you are a teacher, not a pastor, maybe that accounts for your lack of compassion. Perhaps we expect too much of you since you work and speak for John MacArthur, and so many people hold you in high esteem I used to be one of those, even though I am not a Calvinist, I always respected your teaching. Lately however, I can’t bring myself to listen to you. Continue reading

Trey Comments at “The Transformed Wife” About Working Women

Complementarianism, Gender Roles, The Transformed Wife

mind-the-gap

-by Kathi

In our last book post we talked about how God’s Design turns work into a men’s only club. This seems to be a big deal among the comp crowd.

Trey posted a comment again at The Transformed Wife giving his two cents worth about why women shouldn’t be in the work place. To me, it’s only worth two cents. 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

A Father Shares the Fallout His Family is Facing after Being in a High-Controlling Church

Spiritual abuse, children, mental health, high-controlling church, NAR, New Apostolic Reformation


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Special note:  I am in Chicago until 11/5 and would love to get together with survivors or those interested in helping survivors. If you would like to meet up, please contact me and let’s see if we can arrange a gathering.  spiritualsb@gmail.com   ~Julie Anne

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Today, we are going to read a brief personal story from Andrew. Andrew shares with us the harm his family faced and is still facing after being in a high-controlling, abusive church for 15 years.

There are a number of thoughts that struck me when reading his words.

  • First, Andrew seems to have a good understanding of what he and his family endured, the good, the bad, and the ugly. Sometimes this process can take years.
  • Secondly, he is not minimizing or trying to move past the current emotional and mental state of his family. It appears that he is appropriately addressing each conflict or bump in the road right now. Many times when people are in a spiritually abusive church, they want to move on so quickly (understandably), that they forget to take care of themselves and get their wounds healed.
  • Thirdly, Andrew is aware that this healing process is a journey. He’s taking a realistic look at where he’s been, what is happening now, and the work ahead, and knows there is no quick fix.

I believe there is a recovery process to get to wholeness after spiritual abuse. Process is the key word. It doesn’t work well to close the door to spiritual abuse and act like it never existed. It did exist and it did have an impact on lives. If we are quick to put it behind us without doing the necessary recovery work, we are likely to fall into similar traps.  When we go through recovery, we gain knowledge, understanding, have a new fresh perspective on who God is and how He relates with us, and we learn to forgive ourselves.  ~ja Continue reading

How our Pastor’s Biblical Interpretation Can Affect Our Understanding of Scripture and God

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This is a very insightful statement from C.J. Mahaney.

 

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Help! My Family Member or Close Friend is Trapped in a High-Controlling Church or Cult. How Can I Encourage Them to Leave?

How to help a family member or friend leave a high-controlling church group or cult: spiritual abuse, trapped, thought reform, mind control, freedom


 

“Mind control is the process by which individual or collective freedom of choice and action is compromised by agents or agencies that modify or distort perception, motivation, affect, cognition and/or behavioral outcomes. It is neither magical nor mystical, but a process that involves a set of basic social psychological principles. Conformity, compliance, persuasion, dissonance, reactance, guilt and fear arousal, modeling and identification are some of the staple social influence ingredients well studied in psychological experiments and field studies. In some combinations, they create a powerful crucible of extreme mental and behavioral manipulation when synthesized with several other real-world factors, such as charismatic, authoritarian leaders, dominant ideologies, social isolation, physical debilitation, induced phobias, and extreme threats or promised rewards that are typically deceptively orchestrated, over an extended time period in settings where they are applied intensively.”
Steven Hassan, Combating Cult Mind Control: The #1 Best-Selling Guide to Protection, Rescue and Recovery from Destructive Cults

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I’ve heard it said that losing a child to death can be a parent’s worst nightmare. Now imagine having lost your adult child and their family, not to death, but to a high-controlling church or cult. Imagine not being able to celebrate birthdays or major holidays together. Imagine having only limited contact with your adult child and their family. How could your loved one entirely dismiss you, act like you are a stranger or enemy when you did nothing to them? Continue reading

The Gift of Standing in the Trenches with a Survivor

 

 

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“Being heard
is so close to being loved
that for the average person,
they are almost indistinguishable.”
― David Augsburger

The other day, a spiritual abuse survivor and friend I met last year in Moscow, Idaho, posted the following quote by Dr. Diane Langberg on her Facebook wall. Please read it slowly and carefully. Knowing and understanding this could be the very gift you use to help propel a survivor in a positive direction towards healing. Continue reading

Pastor Chuck O’Neal Badgers and Berates an Abortion Clinic Escort about His Manhood

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Tullian Tchividjian and Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church Discussion: “He demanded that people be loyal to him.”

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The Fallout of Spiritual Abuse on Our Children

Children Harmed by Spiritual Abuse

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While the Board of Bill Gothard’s Former Ministry, IBLP, Claims Judge Dismissed Lawsuit, Attorney for Plaintiffs Says Four New Plaintiffs Have Come Forward

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Four Primary Conditions that Result in People Leaving Abusive Churches and Cults

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