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.

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 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. Continue reading

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. Continue reading

Book Review Series – Lori Alexander’s “The Power of a Transformed Wife” – Shhhh…Be Very, Very Quiet

The Power of a Transformed Wife, Lori Alexander, Submission


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-by Kathi

This is a book review series of The Power of a Transformed Wife by Lori Alexander. If you are just joining us, you may click on previous chapter reviews to catch up.

Introduction & Chapter 1   Chapter 2   Chapter 3   Chapter 4   Chapter 5   Chapter 6  Chapter 7


Chapter 8 – Part 1 – Win Him Without a Word

Due to the length and so much wrong happening, this chapter will be broken into two parts. Remember how the last chapter ended questioning whether or not wives didn’t have any words because they were too busy having sex? Oh, there’s so much more to winning over your husband.

Lori (ever so humbly) reminds readers again that she helps women who come to her complaining about their husbands. Lori’s “prescription” to winning over a husband is:

You can win him without a word by your grace-filled, godly behavior because a woman’s most potent voice is not the words that she speaks but the life she lives in front of her husband and children. This approach is reminiscent of the saying, ‘Preach the gospel at all times, and, if necessary, use words.’

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)

 

 

Book Review Series – “The Power of a Transformed Wife” – Wives Give Sex. All the Time.

The Power of a Transformed Wife, Lori Alexander, Sex in Marriage, Submission


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Screenshot from The Transformed Wife Facebook Page – 6/15/17

-by Kathi

This is a book review series of The Power of a Transformed Wife by Lori Alexander. If you are just joining us, you may click on previous chapter reviews to catch up.

Introduction & Chapter 1   Chapter 2   Chapter 3   Chapter 4   Chapter 5   Chapter 6

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Chapter 7 – This Thing Called Sex

Oh, goody…the sex chapter! Before I started reading this chapter I thought to myself: “Self, I wonder what wise words Lori will give women about sex? Let me guess…It will be about how husbands want sex all the time, and how wives are to give it to them anytime.”

Lori’s opening sentence:

Men like sex…a lot.

Oh, self, I am not disappointed in you. P.S. Lori, women like sex…a lot…too! Continue reading

Book Review Series – “The Power of a Transformed Wife” – Don’t Argue. It’s That Easy.

The Power of a Transformed Wife, Lori Alexander, Marriage, Submission


character-1797362_1280

-by Kathi

This is a book review series of The Power of a Transformed Wife by Lori Alexander. If you are just joining us, you may click on previous chapter reviews to catch up.

Introduction & Chapter 1   Chapter 2   Chapter 3   Chapter 4   Chapter 5

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Chapter 6 – Easy Conflict Resolution Continue reading

Book Review Series – “The Power of a Transformed Wife” – Lori’s All About Submission and Ken’s All About Control

The Power of a Transformed Wife, Lori Alexander, Control, Submission


bridal-636018_1280

-by Kathi

This is a book review series of The Power of a Transformed Wife by Lori Alexander. If you are just joining us, you may click on previous chapter reviews to catch up.

Introduction & Chapter 1   Chapter 2   Chapter 3   Chapter 4

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Chapter 5 – What Submission Looks Like Continue reading

Book Review Series – “The Power of a Transformed Wife” – Lori Has a Habit of Contradicting Herself

The Power of a Transformed Wife, Lori Alexander, Control, Submission


-by Kathi

This is a book review series of The Power of a Transformed Wife by Lori Alexander. If you are just joining us, you may click on previous chapter reviews to catch up.

Introduction & Chapter 1   Chapter 2   Chapter 3

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“Trey’s” review of The Power of a Transformed Wife on Amazon

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Chapter 4 – Allow Him to Lead

I have been warned about the poor editing job of this book. It is starting to show in this chapter. Lori jumps around from topic to topic which starts to make this book seem more like a mismatch of ideas. The reality is, there are no new ideas from Lori in this book. You can read either of her blogs, or Debi Pearl’s book, and find the same ideas. That being said, I’ll try to keep to the main points and not drag you through the rabbit trail. Continue reading

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

Lori Alexander, Emotional Abuse, Headship, Submission

fitness-826940_1280

-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

Book Review Series – “The Power of a Transformed Wife” – It’s All About Who’s in Control

The Power of a Transformed Wife, Lori Alexander, Control, Submission


This is a book review series of The Power of a Transformed Wife by Lori Alexander. If you are just joining us, you may click on previous chapter reviews to catch up.

Introduction & Chapter 1   Chapter 2

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Screen Shot 2017-04-05 at 8.46.01 PM

Debi Pearl thinks Lori’s book gives “hope.” However, it seems that even she could not read through all of it.

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Book Review Series: “The Power of a Transformed Wife” – Lori Reveals Her Mindset

Lori Alexander, The Power of a Transformed Wife, Book Review, Gender Roles

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

Screen Shot 2015-04-29 at 7.49.07 AM

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

A Challenge to Abused Christian Women Regarding Teachings on Divorce

Continue reading

Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood 2016 Conference #CBMW16 Live Tweets and Complementarianism Cool-Aid

Continue reading

Pastors Tullian Tchividjian + Bob Coy + Sexual Sin + Church Leaders Who Protect Immoral Pastors = A Broken Church

Continue reading

Domestic Violence is NOT a Marriage Issue, but an Abuse Issue

Domestic Violence, Naghmeh and Saeed Abedini, Divorce, Marriage, Abuse, Church Response to Abuse

Continue reading

Troubling Tweet: The Gospel Coalition Promotes Unbiblical “Gender Role” Teachings

The Gospel Coalition (TGC), Kathy Keller, Domestic Violence, Complementarian, Marriage, Headship

Continue reading

Vetting, Accountability, Licensing, and Promoting for Pastor Saeed Abedini: Exploring What Went Wrong and How

The Qualifications Case of Pastor Saeed Abedini, and the Roles of Pastor Bob Caldwell, Franklin Graham, Jay Sekulow, and the American Evangelistic Association


 

The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task.  Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money.  He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive,  for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church?  He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil.

1 Timothy 3:3-7 (ESV/English Standard Version, via Bible Gateway)

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Regardless of which New Testament translation we use, we can’t get away from the essential mandate in 1 Timothy 3:3-7 — that those who want to be in public roles for the Church automatically subject themselves to ongoing “background checks” about their character and actions. ~ brad/futuristguy

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The Saeed and Naghmeh Abedini story is complicated. That doesn’t mean it is unfathomable, but it has many layers and interconnections involving these two individuals with other people and organizations. This post explores some of those key connections to see how they influenced the unfolding storylines, and to see what we can learn about how to do things better in the future.

The world watched as Pastor Saeed Abedini was elevated to hero status. Our hearts collectively ached for Naghmeh and her young children as we heard of his mistreatment in Iranian prison. After 3-1/2 yrs in prison, Saeed was released, and instead of joyous reunions, we heard of troubling details that were not part of Naghmeh’s original storyline.

Most readers have probably heard by now about Pastor Saeed Abedini’s 2007 domestic assault conviction. Where has this news been all of this time? Would Saeed had been the face of American prisoners in Iran if we had known this? Saeed represented religious freedom, the cause of Christ, and the persecuted Church. I suspect his image would not have looked too good with a previous domestic assault conviction.

The Pastor Saeed Abedini Story: I believe influential leaders failed to take responsibility for those entrusted in their care, and thus, Christ’s name has become a mockery to the world. I find many aspects of this story troubling, but two in particular are disturbing:

  • Leaders failed to do due diligence with the Abedini family regarding Saeed’s long-time pornography and abuse issues. Saeed Abedini was unfit to be pastor according to biblical requirements. What was done in this situation? Why was he allowed to continue ministry work? Why was he allowed to obtain and retain the pastor title?
  • The Abedini family was used by opportunistic individuals and organizations as a pawn to promote political agendas or personal gain.

 

saeed

 

Let’s take a look at key people involved in this story.  There are four key people/groups involved, as I see it, and I believe these four are responsible for not doing due diligence with this family, or for using them for their personal gain and promoting personal or political agendas:

  1. Pastor Bob Caldwell, Calvary Chapel Boise  – This is the home church of the Abedinis in Boise, Idaho.
  2. Franklin Graham.
  3. Jay Sekulow, Chief Counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ).
  4. American Evangelistic Association (AEA) – This is the organization from which Saeed Abedini obtained his pastoral license.

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Pastor Bob Caldwell

Pastor Bob Caldwell has known Naghmeh since before she married Saeed. He visited Iran when they were married in June of 2004:

Meanwhile, in the U.S., a young woman named Naghmeh from that same country had accepted Christ and was attending Calvary Chapel Boise, ID. Feeling prompted to return to her homeland to share the Gospel with her family, she was sent out as a missionary by CC Boise in 2001. After sharing the Gospel with her family there for two years, she met Saeed. They immediately recognized God’s hand in bringing them together and their mutual calling to share the Gospel with Muslims. During a visit from Pastor Bob Caldwell of CC Boise, Saeed and Naghmeh were married in June of 2004; the couple continued to share Christ in the Islam-governed country. (Source)

Pastor Caldwell and his church were very involved in supporting the Abedini family before, during, and now, after Saeed’s release. In a different article about Saeed’s release from prison, Pastor Caldwell shares more about their relationship and acknowledges the political work Naghmeh has done to help free her husband:

“It’s beyond description really,” said Calwell. “I’ve known him pretty well and have been with him in Iran when he was doing stuff there, starting churches. So I love him a lot and to have him come back is just amazing.”

Caldwell said he’s proud of Naghmeh Abedini’s efforts to free her husband. During Abedini’s husband’s captivity she testified at the United Nations and before Congress. She also met with President Obama last year.

In the same article, Caldwell discusses Naghmeh’s disclosure of abuse by Saeed:

Caldwell said this public revelation – which Naghmeh says she regrets and blames on emotional distress – was a shock to some people in his church who supported Saeed through the years.

“It’s hard for a lot of people because you can turn a person into a hero you know, like a superhero,” said Caldwell. “And that’s kind of dangerous because people don’t want their heroes to be normal.” (Source)

Caldwell, unfortunately minimizes the abuse when he uses the word normal. Why was the word abusive not used? Is it because it is difficult to identify someone you have mentored and supported as an abuser?  Most victims understand the importance of correct terminology. To minimize is to dismiss.

Blogger Michael Newnham addresses what Pastor Caldwell knew in his recent article:

We know that as far back as 2007, his spousal abuse and addiction to pornography was known to the pastor he worked under, Bob Caldwell of Calvary Chapel Boise.

We know from sources that Caldwell briefly put Abedini under discipline for this, a time our sources put at 3-1/2 to 4 months.

In the comments section, Michael continues:

I do know that Bob Caldwell exercised authority over him in the matter of his pornography issues.

We read nothing but respect and admiration of Pastor Caldwell from the Abedinis. However, outsiders want answers because they feel they were deceived. Did Caldwell believe Saeed was fit for ministry, knowing his abuse/pornography issues?  And did he do anything to prevent him from going overseas and doing ministry work?

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Franklin Graham

So – what about Franklin Graham?  What role did he play in this?  Franklin took Saeed and Naghmeh on as his project. The Abedini family was the perfect poster family for religious freedom, and he put his money and his name with both Naghmeh and Saeed over the last 3-1/2 yrs.

You can see how political this situation became and how Naghmeh was used in the process:

 In March, Secretary of State John Kerry said he was “deeply concerned” about Saeed Abedini’s fate in Iran. “The best outcome for Mr. Abedini is that he be immediately released,” Kerry said.

“It is not enough,” Naghmeh Abedini said today. “We need to see action to back our rhetoric, in the living, breathing form of Saeed Abedini… having been released.”

“Even if our president can’t see the reality, the rest of the world can,” she said. “I hope and I pray our government… will realize how far we’ve fallen.” (Source)

In the screenshot below, Graham speaks out politically, even naming imprisoned Pastor Saeed Abedini as his friend. The other prisoners are not named. Did you know the other prisoners’ names?  I sure didn’t. Someone sure did a good PR job, huh?

 

 

A side note about the PR job I mentioned earlier. The DeMoss public relations firm coincidentally represents Franklin Graham, American Evangelistic Association, and Jay Sekulow. Maybe it is not coincidental after all when you look at their political leanings.

Back to Franklin Graham. Graham seemed to be spreading the bulk of news upon Saeed’s release: photos, videos, and statements. We were told that Naghmeh would join Franklin and they would fly together by private plane to Germany to meet Saeed. Naghmeh didn’t go to Germany. Instead, Saeed landed on US soil near Franklin Graham’s place.

These were the first pictures that came out after Saeed returned to the US – pictures with Franklin Graham and his private plane behind them:

 

 

We were told Saeed was to rest at Graham’s facility, and Naghmeh and their kids would join him. That, too, did not happen. Instead, Saeed flew to Boise to see his kids. (I read no reports of Saeed seeing Naghmeh – I could have missed something.)  Did Naghmeh have a voice in these plans?

What prompted Franklin Graham to be so actively involved in this case? What did he know and when? Did Graham have knowledge of Saeed’s conviction in 2007?  Per Naghmeh, he did know about the abuse a few months ago. Naghmeh posted this comment on her Facebook page: “Franklin was giving [sic] letters by religious leaders months ago confirming my allegations of abuse. He knows.”

saeed1

 

Franklin Graham frequently mentioned Saeed’s name as he made political speeches about terrorists and the US. Saeed’s name was so well known by now, people didn’t have to know his last name. #FreeSaeed was displayed on social media. People knew who he was, and that he had a beautiful family waiting for him at home. This was great marketing.

After Saeed’s release, Franklin Graham published a statement, which was discussed at The Wartburg Watch blog. A whole post could be made dissecting Franklin’s words, but it’s important to note: Franklin Graham put himself in the place of spokesman for the Abedini family. He told the world where Saeed would be going, when Naghmeh and his family would join him, etc. The last we heard from Franklin Graham was this public statement. In it, he referred to himself as “a minister of the Gospel.” As a minister of the Gospel, he had responsibility. Did he do due diligence to protect this family? Or did he use them as a picture of religious persecution, compromised religious freedoms, etc., to further his own political agenda?
After Saeed left Graham territory and flew to Boise, Franklin Graham seems to have dropped the Abedinis like a hot potato.

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Jay Sekulow, American Center for Law and Justice

Here is Mr. Sekulow’s bio:

“Jay Sekulow is an attorney with a passion for protecting religious liberty – freedom – democracy. For nearly a quarter of a century, he’s been on the front lines – working to protect religious and constitutional freedoms in the courts, in Congress, and in the public arena.” (Source)

I’m not going to get into much from Sekulow except to say that Saeed was once again the poster boy for the kind of causes that Jay Sekulow fights for. Saeed and Naghmeh were used to further his own political agenda.

Check out this article and very short video. The video is basically an infomercial for ACLJ. Take note of the music in the background.

Jay Sekulow: ACLJ leader Jay Sekulow says the fight against Christian persecution is not over just because Saeed was released. Sekulow echoes what each individual involved has stated publicly: Christians must continue to pray and fight for an end to persecution. (Source)   http://aclj.org/

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American Evangelistic Association (AEA)

Saeed Abedini received his pastor’s license through this organization. A summary of the historical background of AEA:

To compensate for the highly political hierarchy in a major denomination and the limitations of their overseer systems for organizing and controlling grass roots pastors, in 1954, Dr. [John] Douglas led a group of several dozen pastors in becoming become independent pastors and formed the American Evangelistic Association (“AEA).  (Source)

Did you interpret that the same way I did? I read this as an ideal place to get a pastor’s license if you don’t want to be under someone’s authority. Boom!

aea4

Source

 

American Evangelistic Association recognizes credentials for Pastoral Ordination, Pastoral Licensing, Elder recognition, Deacon/ Deaconess recognition, Church Planting leadership, and missionary. AEA believes the Scripture teaches that both male and female are eligible to serve in all capacities of ministry leadership. (Source)

OK, here’s the important part (bolded by moi):

Background checks are made on all candidates therefore thumb prints are required on the application. (Source)

So  – inquiring minds want to know – did they do a background check on Saeed before administering a pastor’s license to him?  Here is where it gets confusing. On January 16, 2016, president of AEA, Kerry Fink, sent out two nearly identical statements announcing Saeed’s release from prison. In those statements, there are two different dates indicating when Saeed joined AEA:

This one states early 2010:

 

And this statement lists June 18, 2008 as the date Saeed joined up with AEA.

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Source

 

Here is the AEA application section where Saeed should have filled out his criminal record:

 

As we have come to find out from the official Idaho court record on Saeed’s domestic assault guilty plea, the violation date on the case is July 1, 2007, it was filed the next day, and the disposition was on January 25, 2008.

2007 Saeed Abedinigalangashi Case History 2

If AEA did their background check as they said they do, and if Saeed was forthcoming with information on his application that he was indicted and convicted of domestic assault, and AEA did invite Saeed into their fold in 2008, then why was he issued a pastor’s license? This blogger wants to know.

In case any of you wanted to become a pastor (male or female, btw), here is what it will cost you, and a brief explanation about the required “contributions.”  I never knew that contributions were a requirement!

Since the association is totally dependent on contributions we require all of our members to make a monthly financial commitment to their association. (Source)

 

 

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It is my opinion that Saeed Abedini should never have been licensed as a pastor or serving in that role, based on the 2007 case and conviction, and ongoing pornography and abuse issues. Church leaders and the AEA could have done a better job of preventing him from getting into ministries and alerting others to his ongoing problems if he sought out ministry anyway.

It is my opinion that Naghmeh has been a victim of her husband’s abuse, and she was used as a puppet to further the political agendas of Jay Sekulow and Franklin Graham. These two men saw an opportunity for funds, prestige, and power right in front of them and they seized it. However, once the abuse allegations became public, they wiped their hands clean of the mess and I have yet to see anything from them showing real support for Naghmeh now.

Is it any wonder why the world laughs at Christians?