Flashback: This Week At the Shepherds’ Conference with Pastor Chuck O’Neal Three Years Ago

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Three years ago, I was sued by my ex-pastor, Chuck O’Neal, pastor of Beaverton Grace Bible Church, for speaking out on social media about the abuse we and other families incurred.

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Phil Johnson Claims the Main Trouble in Churches are the Sheep, not Wolves

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Facebook Comments Removed from Tony Miano’s Facebook Page When Commenter Asks About Donation $$

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Tony Miano put out a plea for donations on his Facebook page,  however, Tony’s admin guy, Chris H. deleted comments made by someone questioning about the money.  The commenter was accused of slander, defamation, and threatened to ban from posting on the Facebook page.  Bully, much?

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Invitation to Participate in New Spiritual Abuse Research Study by Dr. Barb Orlowski

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Spiritual abuse author Dr. Barb Orlowski to conduct a new spiritual abuse survivor survey and is looking for participants.

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Strange Fire Conference: John MacArthur, “Reformed Theology is not a Haven for False Teachers”

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I apologize in advance for the length of this post.  Please read the Facebook status slowly and let it sink in, would you?

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Beaverton Grace Bible Church’s Pastor Chuck O’Neal: Your Past Will Find You

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Today, Willamette Week, a Portland news outlet, published their third recent article on Pastor Chuck O’Neal, my former pastor who sued me and four others for $500,000.  The first article dealt with his protesting at a local abortion clinic and how civic leaders were looking into whether any civil codes were being violated.  This particular situation got additional coverage beyond Willamette Week’s reports:  KATU.com and Oregonlive.com.

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Beaverton Grace Bible Church and Pastor Chuck O’Neal – A Year after They Lost the Defamation Lawsuit

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But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come:  For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blpasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,  unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God,  having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!  2 Tim 3:1-5

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Admin note:  Ok, I apologize in advance for the length of this article, but I could not find a dividing point without losing the flow and making it disjointed.   The goal was to have all of the documentation in one post.  So . . .  if you only have time for reading the condensed version and important parts, read the BROWN font and the tweets.  

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One year ago today, we heard the ruling from Judge Fun regarding the $500,000 defamation lawsuit against me and 4 other members (2 were later dropped).  We won!  I was away at a Christian summer camp serving as a counselor when we got the news and quickly got away for about an hour to share the news. Continue reading

BGBC Defamation Lawsuit Archive: How to Document Spiritual Abuse in Your Church

Every account like this makes a difference for those of us who’ve survived spiritually abusive situations.

And hopefully, in the long run, courageous people like yourself and others who choose to do something will help turn the tide.  

~Brad Sargent

Stroll back with me to one year ago.  A year ago, my life was about to turn upside down.  Having been silenced through abuse during my childhood, I was not about to be silenced again by a man who was no longer my pastor and had managed to get Google to remove my Google reviews.  And so a blog was started:  BGBC Survivors.

It’s interesting to go back and read those initial posts and comments from readers.  This morning I noticed that all of the initial commenters used “Anonymous” as their pseudonym when posting.  Why was that? Because these people knew the power of that pastor – that Pastor Chuck O’Neal would create all sorts of trouble for them if they dared to comment using their real name.

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10 Most Popular Articles of the Year at BGBC Survivors Blog

It’s always fun to watch which blog posts are popular, so I thought it would be interesting to recap the ten most popular blog posts since the inception of the blog late February of 2012.  So, here ya go: 

This was a huge surprise to me.  I took a detour on this article after reading the Edwin Young story in the news.  This type of church is foreign to probably most of my readers and this post on Pastor Edwin Young and Faith Tabernacle has received the most hits of any blog posts and continues to receive hits on a daily basis.  Lois of spiritualabuse.org probably the most  information on this group on the internet and she has told me that the people in these churches are searching for answers.  You’ll notice that many of the comments are anonymous.  These people live in fear, yet they know something is wrong at their church and are looking for information.  I praise God that He has used this disturbing and snarky post to reveal the truth and hope that people will not settle until they find the Truth.  Continue reading

False Teachers: The Hard Gospel and Grace







In my former church our pastor spoke that our church was different than others because he preached a tough gospel message.  It was implied that people in other churches would have difficulty getting through the narrow gate to heaven because their pastors preached what they wanted to hear, not what was necessary to get to heaven.  Our pastor didn’t water down the Word and wasn’t into seeker-sensitive or easy-believisim teachings.  Some current church members even mentioned this narrow gate wording on their Google reviews which have since been revised or/or removed.  It was (is) a source of pride among the congregation.  We felt thankful that we didn’t have to listen to other pastor’s sermons which were most likely weak.  There was a sense among us that other pastors must not love their congregations the way ours did because our pastor preached the hard teachings.  We were special ones to have this teaching, even though it meant a more difficult path.  


Spiritual abuse pattern:  A common trait in spiritually abusive churches is elitism.   If we are so special, and all others churches are inferior, who wants to attend an inferior church?  Elitism is a manipulation tactic to keep people at the church.  And it works powerfully because we become convinced that no other church will measure up to our elite church.



“Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it.  Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it.   Matthew 7:13-14

What we saw modeled to us to get to that narrow path, however,  was works-based religion.  We felt the need to be present at all church meetings.  If there was a car wash evangelism outreach, it was important to be there.  We felt pressure to go out and and evangelize on Friday nights, to other events he deemed important.  We had to use the right formula for evangelism, we had rules of how to dress, there were rules of when women could talk, what members did with our time outside of church.  Somehow, the pastor did not need to say a thing and people still felt  pressure and could hear his rules in their heads.   These were unspoken rules.  I’ve spoken to a number of people who sensed this pressure and felt guilty for not attending a specific event or teaching.

Religion always teaches that you can get to God by doing something.  Your good standing with God depends on what you do.  Do the law, perform religion, do it right, look good, try hard.  Is that the gate through which we are called to find life?  No.  Those leading people to it are ravenous wolves in sheep’s clothing.  They look like sheep, and they appear to be the safest, most righteous, but they lead people down the wrong path.  Jesus plus anything is not Jesus! 

(from The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse by David Johnson & Jeff VanVonderen)

Look at the verse following the narrow gate passage:

15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves.  


I discussed a bit of this with my friend, Pastor Ken Garrett.  Ken has first-hand experience of being involved in an abusive church for over a decade and has studied spiritual abuse at great length.  I always appreciate his insight.  He shared this with me and it goes right along with what we and so many people experience in abusive churches:

Dogmatic, demanding preachers are prone to boast that their “gospel” is THE narrow way; and they can usually point to a truck-load of rules, mores, taboos, and religious expectations and dogmatic doctrines that they’ve laid on their followers as evidence of just how “narrow” their way is!   Basically, any church that doesn’t seem as “strict” as their church immediately is accorded the “broad-and-wide-way-that-leads-to-death” title.  It’s the theology of bullies, and is an affront to God’s marvelous grace.


Ken is exactly right.  A typical pattern we see in these churches, as Ken alludes to in the last sentence, is a lack of grace.   There is no gospel without grace.  If a pastor says “grace” from the pulpit, but his life and actions reflect otherwise, is he preaching the gospel?  I don’t think so.   Preaching is much more than the words coming from the pulpit.  A pastor preaches and models to his congregants through his words and actions after the service, during the week as he rubs shoulders with congregants and those outside the church.  


Anyone can get caught up into a church like ours.  Because so much seemed biblical and accurate from the pulpit, I had difficulty articulating what the real problem was.  I share our personal accounts because my husband and I had been Christians over 30 years and we were fooled.  I knew something was wrong the first time I walked in the place, but could not identify it.    It took leaving the church, getting out of the environment completely to see things clearly, and even then, it was a process.  The wool was pulled over our eyes.  We drank the Kool-Aid.  The after-effects of the Kool-Aid are wretched and painful.  We are still dealing with it.  

I hope our story helps to illustrate how false teachers creep in and can get even seasoned Christians fooled.  Just because your pastor teaches the hard gospel and uses scripture to back it up, and preaches against false teachers, calling them out, does not mean that your pastor is not a wolf.  Scripture says that they creep in unnoticed.    Their objective is to devour.  Look for the inconsistencies in their words.  If they preach grace, is the fruit evident in their lives and words away from the pulpit and in their personal life in dealings with others?  




photo credit: Norma Desmond via photopin cc

The BGBC Google Review Soap Opera



Some readers have been watching the Google reviews on my former church and sometimes give me a “heads up” if they notice new or strange activity.  I guess it’s like a form of warped entertainment?   haha   Pass the bon bons, I’ve got on my loungewear, let’s go.  Anyway, I’ve had a few laughs at the ongoing changes.

 
Google has changed their rating system a bit.  I notice reviews are disappearing.  At one point there were over 960 or so reviews – keep in mind most of those were from the Streisand effect from the media attention – people who had never visited the church wanted to get their $.02 in about a pastor who suesd mothers and their adult children.  Now there are 678 total reviews.   I grabbed the screen shot of the Google page above because it has changed so much.  I wonder how many man-hours Google staff has wasted dealing with the reviews from my former church?  

Someone notified me that Hannah’s (my adult daughter and former defendant in the lawsuit) review was missing.  I checked and also asked another friend to check and we could not find her review.  She had updated it after our court victory back in late July.  Why did Google remove it?  Did someone flag it?  A couple days later, it returned.  Strange happenings!
 
One other thing – I cannot find my review anywhere!  What’s up with that?  I won the court case and my review should be there.   So, should I do a new review?  hmmm . . . . decisions . . . . 
 
Peppermint Patty is a current member at the church and it looks like she revised her review within the last week:

I have a few comments to make about Patty’s review.  We see right away that she also calls people who left reviews, “God-haters”.  That is pretty judgmental.  As discussed in an earlier post, I counted “hate” seven times in current church member Liz’s old review (pictured below).  The way Liz and Patty use this “hate” word makes me think this phrase is commonly used, especially in reference to former church members.  Ouch!  I don’t consider the word “God-hating” to be very kind or loving; yet, they try to convince us in their reviews that they are a Christ-honoring congregation committed to reach the lost.  I wonder how the “lost” would feel if they knew of this kind of talk among this “Christ-honoring” congregation.  
 
Secondly, it appears that Patty is reprimanding the large amount of people who left negative reviews and who never attended the church.  Well, that’s very interesting.  Patty didn’t seem to mind when her own pastor along with other members used the Google review forum to review ME!!!  My name is and was never up for review.  Have they, too,  violated Google’s review policy?  Maybe so.  I haven’t checked, but it makes no sense to allow reviews to be posted that aren’t reviewing the business in question (oh, and of course they rated their review of ME as 5 stars so as not to sabotage their own church’s rating – – I don’t think the 5 stars was because they really like me – BOO!)   
 
Finally, I noticed that Liz has a new and improved review posted.  This is the 3rd review that I have been able to get a screen shot of.  I missed one.  Anyway, I thought it would be fun to do a little comparison.  It’s a lot more fun analyzing Google reviews than discussing sexual abuse, spiritual abuse, and spousal abuse, isn’t it?   Well, I need the diversion, so here goes:

 
Just eight days ago, on October 15, I posted about the following in a blog post:
 
 


The above review “mysteriously” disappeared after my post drawing attention to it.  Funny how that works.  (We noticed similar patterns at the church website, too.)   Liz then posted another review, but I didn’t get a screen shot of it.  The following review (3rd review) is posted below.  I think it remained online maybe 1 or 2 days before it, too, disappeared.


And finally, today I noticed this new review was posted.  I don’t know when it was originally posted as I don’t check Google reviews daily.  Anyway, if you’ve been counting along with me, we are up to 4 review revisions in 8 days by Liz.  Has the church really changed that much in 8 days?  Probably not.


Look how much it has changed! The latest Google review entry is quite short and apparently Liz has added a fan – now 4 out of 30 people found her review helpful.   I wonder what tomorrow brings on:  As the Google Review World Turns.   

I’ll be sure to keep you updated.  If you have any observations on the reviews, I’d love to read your conclusions.  My readers are usually quite sharp!





BGBC Church Members Still Leaving Reviews on Google

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I know – this is a quick diversion.  I just could not help myself.




Remember this guy?   The Energizer bunny?  The bumping down of reviews by current church members reminds me of that old Energizer Bunny commercial – – – who keeps going and going and going and going and going and going and going and going and going and going and going . . . 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Current BGBC member Liz A  (yes, I know her last name, but I won’t publicize it, unlike her pastor who filed a civil lawsuit against me and my name and pictures are now plastered all over the internet, thank you very much, Chuck)  couldn’t stay away from the Google reviews and rewrote her Google review, bumping down the negative ones.   It looks like BGBC member  Peppermint Patty also revised her review last month.  
 




I thought of responding to every statement of Liz’s review, but decided to demonstrate shocking restraint.  Instead, I will offer a few thoughts:


Perusing the review, I tallied the use of the word “hate” seven times.  Patty, the BGBC member who revised her review below Liz’s also used the word “hate” in her review.  


Surprisingly, through all of the pain so many of the former members have experienced from the pastor/elder and members as a result of shunning, recording private conversations, stalking on social networks, etc, I have never heard even one person mention that they hate anyone from BGBC, including the pastor.  The notion that former members hate current members or the pastor is completely false.  


The most common heart-felt expression I’ve heard is that they love the current people of BGBC.  They feel sad for those who remain and pray for them.  When the first group of people who left heard that a new group of people had left – nearly 3 years later, we all rejoiced at the news and could not wait to reconnect with them.  Even though those people had hurt us immensely by avoiding us, refusing to talk to us, we still wanted to reach out and connect with them.  We never stopped thinking of them and praying for them.   No, Liz, there is no hate from former members.  The only hate I see is in your words.  Where is that coming from, Liz?     

Liz also uses the word “slander”.  Slander is defined as “the action or crime of making a false spoken statement damaging to a person’s reputation”.     The court said that none of the words we used were “defamatory”.  In fact not even one of the words/phrases met even the first tier of the definition of defamation.  Liz, accusing us of slander is a false statement and could perhaps be a slanderous statement.  






Better is a dinner of herbs where love is
than a fattened ox and hatred with it.
(Proverbs 15:17 ESV)
 




photo credit: sweet mustache via photopin cc

Chuck O’Neal of Beaverton Grace Bible Church Issues Press Release

Sheep-Dog, a regular reader here, wanted to see the original press release from our former pastor.  The link to the original “press release” is no longer working at The Wartburg Watch and the document was apparently removed from the BGBC website.  A reader sent O’Neal an e-mail and this press release was included in O’Neal’s response and was later forwarded to me.  

 
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Things are not always what they first seem to be. Here is a portion of the rest of the story.

BEAVERTON GRACE BIBLE CHURCH

There is another side to the story. Beaverton Grace Bible Church wants to present its side of the story before anyone rushes to judgment. In Nov. of 2008 a man was removed from the staff of Beaverton Grace Bible Church (BGBC). Since that time, Pastor Charles O’Neal and the Beaverton Grace Bible Church have been the targets of a three and a half year campaign of defamation by a group of former church members and attenders who are close personal friends of the former staff member. The church elders and the pastor did little to defend themselves over these three and a half years, believing that the individuals would tire of the effort and eventually cease the defamation. However, that did not prove to be successful. In fact it was counter-productive. The defamation campaign escalated recently when one of the former congregants established a blog on the internet with the intent of reaching a broader audience. This divisive group has used review websites, blogs, the police, the Department of Human Services, and now the local media in their three and a half year campaign to destroy Pastor O’Neal and Beaverton Grace Bible Church with false accusations that range from ridiculous to criminal.

The facts will show that this is not a free speech case. Just after the release of the before mentioned staff member, in Dec. of 2008, a member of this group called the police and the DHS to deliver a false report accusing Pastor O’Neal of physically abusing his own children and allowing pornography to be distributed to adolescents in the church. He, his family, and the church were subsequently investigated by the authorities and the case was dismissed as unfounded. His only response to these vicious charges was to state his own denial. As the campaign has escalated the postings on the internet have falsely accused Pastor O’Neal of being a “wolf,” a “liar,” a” narcissist” and one who “knew about a sex offender in the church who had access to the nursery and the children on a weekly basis and did not have any safeguards in place.” In yet further escalation, Julie Anne Smith stated that the church allows “sex offenders having free reign in childrens’ area with no discloser to parents… .” This is most likely the second worst thing that can be said about a pastor and a church and most certainly constitutes defamation.

Beaverton Grace Bible Church, Pastor O’Neal, and his family have patiently suffered these accusations for three and a half years. In light of the escalation of postings on the internet and the creation of the blog dedicated to continuing the accusations and spreading them to and even wider audience, the elders of the church concluded that their only viable option was legal action. They very reluctantly decided to defend their church and their pastor against these allegations in the courts of Oregon where they believe that truth will prevail. They trust that application of the law will demonstrate that defamation on the internet is not the type of speech that is protected by either the U.S. Constitution or the Oregon Constitution.

In response to the many rightly concerned Christians in the local community and around the world who are emailing and calling, Pastor O’Neal has stated:

Please do not be quick to believe what you hear or read in the press and then pass judgment upon our motives or our commitment to Scripture. Proverbs 18:17 says, “The first one to plead his cause seems right, until his neighbor comes and examines him.” Proverbs 25:8 says, “Do not go hastily to court; For what will you do in the end, When your neighbor has put you to shame?” We have not gone hastily to court. For three and a half years this group has been engaged in a public,church to church, and World Wide Web defamation, showing their willingness to discredit God, harm the church, harm wives, harm children, and harm the testimony of Christ’s Gospel. It is BGBC’s firm conviction that this cannot continue. The ministry of the local church and the Gospel cannot continue to be hindered. Families cannot continue to be threatened by false allegations of abuse. 1 Cor. 6:7-8 was not meant to protect this group from the the legal consequences of their deeds. Matthew Henry (Charles Spurgeon’s favorite commentator) comments on 1 Cor. 6; “Here is at least an intimation that they went to law for trivial matters, things of little value; for the apostle blames them that they did not suffer wrong rather than go to law (v. 7), which must be understood of matters not very important. In matters of great damage to ourselves or families, we may use lawful means to right ourselves. We are not bound to sit down and suffer the injury tamely, without stirring for our own relief; but, in matters of small consequence, it is better to put up with the wrong. Christians should be of a forgiving temper. And it is more for their ease and honour to suffer small injuries and inconveniences than seem to be contentious.” (from Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Copyright (c) 1991 by Hendrickson Publishers, Inc.) After three and a half years of suffering a great many injuries tamely, without stirring for our own relief, we are now using lawful means to right the ministry of the Gospel at BGBC and to protect our families. We thank you for your prayers.

*The following msn news story may help give you a better understanding of what is taking place (please follow the link).
http://usnews.msnbc.msn.com/_

news/2012/05/16/11698334-

oregon-mom-sued-by-church-
over-online-criticism?lite

*BGBC has a very high view of God’s Word as did others though out the history of the church, who understand that there are times where legal recourse is necessary in the defense of one’s family, one’s children, and other families and children.*Matthew Henry (Charles Spurgeon’s favorite commentator) comments on this text: “Here is at least an intimation that they went to law for trivial matters, things of little value; for the apostle blames them that they did not suffer wrong rather than go to law (v. 7), which must be understood of matters not very important. IN MATTERS OF GREAT DAMAGE TO OURSELVES OR FAMILIES, WE MAY USE LAWFUL MEANS TO RIGHT OURSELVES. WE ARE NOT BOUND TO SIT DOWN AND SUFFER THE INJURY TAMELY, WITHOUT STIRRING FOR OUR OWN RELIEF; but, in matters of small consequence, it is better to put up with the wrong. Christians should be of a forgiving temper. And it is more for their ease and honour to suffer small injuries and inconveniences than seem to be contentious.” (from Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Copyright (c) 1991 by Hendrickson Publishers, Inc.)

*Albert Barnes: Where a Christian is INJURED in his person, character, or property, he has a right to seek redress. Courts, are instituted for the protection and defense of the innocent and the peaceable against the fraudulent, the wicked, and the violent. And a Christian owes it to his country, to his family, and to himself, that the man who has injured him should receive the proper punishment. The peace and welfare of the community demand it. If a man murders my wife or child, I owe it to the laws and to my country, to justice and to God, to endeavor to have the law enforced. So if a man robs my property, or injures my character, I may owe it to OTHERS as well as to myself that the law in such a case should be executed, and the rights of others also be secured. But in all these cases, a Christian should engage in such prosecutions not with a desire of revenge, not with the love of litigation, but with the love of justice, and of God, and with a mild, tender, candid and forgiving temper, with a real desire that the opponent may be benefited, and that all HIS rights also should be secured;(from Barnes’ Notes, Electronic Database. Copyright (c) 1997 by Biblesoft)

*Forbidden Lawsuits –John MacArthur1 Corinthians 6:1-8 

October 26, 1975

Now, lemme add this. It may be under some circumstances, and I have to leave in aloophole here, it may be under some circumstances necessary for a Christian to go to court. Sometimes you have a sad thing where one Christian want to divorce another one, and in a divorce situation, of course you know what the Bible says. God hates divorce. God hates it. Malachi said that. God doesn’t want divorce. Divorce just shatters lives, and sometimes a Christian will be divorced by another Christian, and there’s no way that that Christian can try to preserve a union which he believes God wants than to go to the court, and he isn’t really the one who is suing. He’s just going to protect what he believes God has ordained. There’s no personal vengeance there. There’s no personal gain there. There’s no monetary motive there. If his motive is to glorify God and preserve what God has said is right, then…then maybe there is justification at that place to go to court, and I won’t make a moral judgment on that.There may be such a thing in custody situations, too, where you have children, and you have parents that are split; and one parent is a…is a solid, really God-honoring, Christ-loving parent, and the other one is just…claims to be a Christian but I…I knew of one situation just like that. This woman claimed to be a Christian and became a prostitute, and there was a natural desire to get custody of the children, and the court case came up, and custody was given to the Christian situation; and it was a really…it was a good thing. It was a very happy thing. The children were being abused. They were being beaten up by various and sundry men. All kinds of tragic things were happening.I’m not saying that the Bible forbids ever entering a court under any circumstances; but what the Bible is saying is when your motive is revenge, when your motive is recompense, when your motive is even getting what you deserve to get, when it’s involving you alone, then it’s in violation of all these principles. Now, if you’re trying to rescue somebody from the clutches of Satan, or if you’re trying to save something which you believe God has ordained for His glory, then that may be something you’ll have to make a personal evaluation of. But the general principle here is very clear. Don’t go to court. Why? Because the church will do the judging. If you’ve got an issue, bring it to the church. Bring it to the elders. Let us know about it if it’s an issue between and another Christian or a group of Christians and another group of Christians.Lemme go a step further. Now this may hang some of you out, but lemme say it anyway. I myself, personally, this is me talking, I would be very hard pressed to ever even sue an unbeliever for anything. You know why? If anybody wanted anything I had bad enough to sue me, I would give it to ’em, and let ’em…I’d let ’em have it. It’s yours. And then I’d just say, “My friend, the Lord knows maybe you just need it more than I do,” and I’d just commit him to the Lord. “‘Vengeance is Mine. I will repay,’ says the Lord.” You don’t have to worry. You say, “Well, what about me? He took…he owes me the…” God knows what he owes you, and God’ll take care of you. God’ll take care of him, and I’d just as soon leave him with God as try to mess with it myself. You know, God doesn’t take 15 percent…or 50 percent or whatever, and I’m not being vengeful. I’m just saying you do it God’s way, and God makes things right. God is the great Judge of all, isn’t He? God’s gonna make all things equal in the end. God knows what’s best.

*William Barclay describes how normal it was to be involved in the legal system in Corinth. As you hear this description of Corinthian life, see if you’re not struck by how Corinthian we ourselves are:“The Greeks were naturally and characteristically a litigious people. The law-courts were in fact one of their chief amusements and entertainment…In a Greek city every man was more or less a lawyer and spent a very great part of his time either deciding or listening to law cases. The Greeks were in fact famous, or notorious, for their love of going to law. Not unnaturally, certain of the Greeks had brought their litigious tendencies into the Christian church; and Paul was shocked.”*Dr. Gordon Fee, in his commentary on 1 Corinthians, talks about this issue of the motivation, the spiritual issues in being involved in litigation: “Litigation will hopefully be the last resort even with non-Christians. If it is out of concern for the one defrauded and for all others who might be taken in, then it is fully justified.”
*John CalvinInstitutes of the Christian Religion, IV, xx, 14-21(Public law and judicial procedures, as related to Christian duty, 14-21)14. Old Testament law and the laws of nationsNext to the magistracy in the civil state come the laws, stoutest sinews[1][34] of the commonwealth, or, as Cicero, after Plato, calls them, the souls, without which the magistracy cannot stand, even as they themselves have no force apart from the magistracy. Accordingly, nothing truer could be said than that the law is a silent magistrate; the magistrate, a living law.[2][35]
But because I have undertaken to say with what laws a Christian state ought to be governed, this is no reason why anyone should expect a long discourse concerning the best kind of laws. This would be endless and would not pertain to the present purpose and place. I shall in but a few words, and as in passing, note what laws can piously be used before God, and be rightly administered among men.

I would have preferred to pass over this matter in utter silence if I were not aware that here many dangerously go astray. For there are some who deny that a commonwealth is duly framed which neglects the political system of Moses, and is ruled by the common laws of nations.[3][36] Let other men consider how perilous and seditious this notion is; it will be enough for me to have proved it false and foolish.We must bear in mind that common division of the whole law of God published by Moses into moral, ceremonial, and judicial laws.[4][37] And we must consider each of these parts, that we may understand what there is in them that pertains to us, and what does not. In the meantime, let no one be concerned over the small point that ceremonial and judicial laws pertain also to morals, For the ancient writers who taught this division, although they were not ignorant that these two latter parts had some bearing upon morals, still, because these could be changed or abrogated while morals remained untouched, did not call them moral laws. They applied this name only to the first part, without which the true holiness of morals cannot stand, nor an unchangeable rule of right living.

15. Moral, ceremonial, and judicial law distinguished

The moral law (to begin first with it) is contained under two heads, one of which simply commands us to worship God with pure faith and piety; the other, to embrace men with sincere affection. Accordingly, it is the true and eternal rule of righteousness, prescribed for men of all nations and times, who wish to conform their lives to God’s will. For it is his eternal and unchangeable will that he himself indeed be worshiped by us all, and that we love one another. The ceremonial law was the tutelage of the Jews, with which it seemed good to the Lord to train this people, as it were, in their childhood, until the fullness of time should come [Galatians 4:3-4; cf. ch. 3:23-24], in order that he might fully manifest his wisdom to the nations, and show the truth of those things which then were foreshadowed in figures.

The judicial law, given to them for civil government, imparted certain formulas of equity and justice, by which they might live together blamelessly and peaceably.

Those ceremonial practices indeed properly belonged to the doctrine of piety, inasmuch as they kept the church of the Jews in service and reverence to God, and yet could be distinguished from piety itself. In like manner, the form of their judicial laws, although it had no other intent than how best to preserve that very love which is enjoined by God’s eternal law, had something distinct from that precept of love. Therefore, as ceremonial laws could be abrogated while piety remained safe and unharmed, so too, when these judicial laws were taken away, the perpetual duties and precepts of love could still remain.But if this is true, surely every nation is left free to make such laws as it foresees to be profitable for itself. Yet these must be in conformity to that perpetual rule of love, so that they indeed vary in form but have the same purpose. For I do not think that those barbarous and savage laws such as gave honor to thieves, permitted promiscuous intercourse, and others both more filthy and more absurd, are to be regarded as laws. For they are abhorrent not only to all justice, but also to all humanity and gentleness.

16. Unity and diversity of laws

What I have said will become plain if in all laws we examine, as we should, these two things: the constitution of the law, and the equity on which its constitution is itself founded and rests. Equity, because it is natural, cannot but be the same for all, and therefore, this same purpose ought to apply to all laws, whatever their object. Constitutions have certain circumstances upon which they in part depend. It therefore does not matter that they are different, provided all equally press toward the same goal of equity.

It is a fact that the law of God which we call the moral law is nothing else than a testimony of natural law and of that conscience which God has engraved upon the minds of men.[5][38] Consequently, the entire scheme of this equity of which we are now speaking has been prescribed in it. Hence, this equity alone must be the goal and rule and limit of all laws.Whatever laws shall be framed to that rule, directed to that goal, bound by that limit, there is no reason why we should disapprove of them, howsoever they may differ from the Jewish law, or among themselves.

God’s law forbids stealing. The penalties meted out to thieves in the Jewish State are to be seen in Exodus [Exodus 22:1-4]. The very ancient laws of other nations punished theft with double restitution; the laws which followed these distinguished between theft, manifest and not manifest. Some proceeded to banishment, others to flogging, others finally to capital punishment. False testimony was punished by damages similar and equal to injury among the Jews [Deuteronomy 19:18-21];  elsewhere, only by deep disgrace; in some nations, by hanging; in others, by the cross. All codes equally avenge murder with blood, but with different kinds of death. Against adulterers some nations levy severer, others, lighter punishments. Yet we see how, with such diversity, all laws tend to the same end. For, together with one voice, they pronounce punishment against those crimes which God’s eternal law has condemned, namely, murder, theft, adultery, and false witness. But they do not agree on the manner of punishment. Nor is this either necessary or expedient. There are countries which, unless they deal cruelly with murderers by way of horrible examples, must immediately perish from slaughters and robberies. There are ages that demand increasingly harsh penalties. If any disturbance occurs in a commonwealth, the evils that usually arise from it must be corrected by new ordinances. In time of war, in the clatter of arms, all humaneness would disappear unless some uncommon fear of punishment were introduced. In drought, in pestilence, unless greater severity is used, everything will go to ruin. There are nations inclined to a particular vice, unless it be most sharply repressed. How malicious and hateful toward public welfare would a man be who is offended by such diversity, which is perfectly adapted to maintain the observance of God’s law?

For the statement of some, that the law of God given through Moses is dishonored when it is abrogated and new laws preferred to it, is utterly vain.[6][39] For others are not preferred to it when they are more approved, not by a simple comparison, but with regard to the condition of times, place, and nation; or when that law is abrogated which was never enacted for us. For the Lord through the hand of Moses did not give that law to be proclaimed among all nations and to be in force everywhere; but when he had taken the Jewish nation into his safekeeping, defense, and protection, he also willed to be a lawgiver especially to it; and — as became a wise lawgiver — he had special concern for it in making its laws.

17. Christians may use the law courts, but without hatred and revenge

It now remains for us to examine what we had set in the last place: what usefulness the laws, judgments, and magistrates[7][40] have for the common society of Christians. To this is also joined another question: how much  deference private individuals ought to yield to their magistrates, and how far their obedience ought to go. To very many the office of magistrate seems superfluous among Christians, because they cannot piously call upon them for help, inasmuch as it is forbidden to them to take revenge, to sue before a court, or to go to law.[8][41] But Paul clearly testifies to the contrary that the magistrate is minister of God for our good [Romans 13:4]. By this we understand that he has been so ordained of God, that, defended by his hand and support against the wrongdoing and injustices of evil men, we may live a quiet and serene life [1 Timothy 2:2]. But if it is to no purpose that he has been given by the Lord for our defense unless we are allowed to enjoy such benefit, it is clear enough that the magistrate may without impiety be called upon and also appealed to.

But here I have to deal with two kinds of men. There are very many who so boil with a rage for litigation that they are never at peace with themselves unless they are quarreling with others. And they carry on their lawsuits with bitter and deadly hatred, and an insane passion to revenge and hurt, and they pursue them with implacable obstinacy even to the ruin of their adversaries. Meanwhile, to avoid being thought of as doing something wrong, they defend such perversity on the pretense of legal procedure. But if one is permitted to go to law with a brother, one is not therewith allowed to hate him, or be seized with a mad desire to harm him, or hound him relentlessly.

18. The Christian’s motives in litigation

Such men should therefore understand that lawsuits are permissible if rightly used. There is right use, both for the plaintiff in suing and for the accused in defending himself, if the defendant presents himself on the appointed day and with such exception, as he can, defends himself without bitterness, but only with this intent, to defend what is his by right, and if on the other hand, the plaintiff, undeservedly oppressed either in his person or in his property, puts himself in the care of the magistrate, makes his complaint, and seeks what is fair and good. But he should be far from all passion to harm or take revenge, far from harshness and hatred, far from burning desire for contention. He should rather be prepared to yield his own and suffer anything than be carried away with enmity toward his adversary. On the other hand, where hearts are filled with malice, corrupted by envy, inflamed with wrath, breathing revenge, finally so inflamed with desire for contention, that love is somewhat impaired in them, the whole court action of even the most just cause cannot but be impious. For this must be a set principle for all Christians: that a lawsuit, however just, can never be rightly prosecuted by any man, unless he treat his adversary with the same love and good will as if the business under controversy were already amicably settled and composed. Perhaps someone will interpose here that such moderation is so uniformly absent from any lawsuit that it would be a miracle if any such were found. Indeed, I admit that, as the customs of these times go, an example of an upright litigant is rare; but the thing itself, when not corrupted by the addition of anything evil, does not cease to be good and pure. But when we hear that the help of the magistrate is a holy gift of God, we must more diligently guard against its becoming polluted by our fault.

19. Against the rejection of the judicial process

As for those who strictly condemn all legal contentions, let them realize that they therewith repudiate God’s holy ordinance, and one of the class of gifts that can be clean to the clean [Titus 1:15], unless, perchance, they wish to accuse Paul of a shameful act, since he both repelled the slanders of his accusers, exposing at the same time their craft and malice [Acts 24:12 ff.], and in court claimed for himself the privilege of Roman citizenship [Acts 16:37; 22:1, 25], and, when there was need, appealed from the unjust judge to the judgment seat of Caesar [Acts 25:10-11].

This does not contradict the fact that all Christians are forbidden to desire revenge, which we banish far away from Christian courts [Leviticus 19:18; Matthew 5:39; Deuteronomy 32:35; Romans 12:19]. For if it is a civil case, a man does not take the right path unless he commits his cause, with innocent simplicity, to the judge as public protector; and he should think not at all of returning evil for evil [Romans 12: 17], which is the passion for revenge. If, however, the action is brought for some capital or serious offense, we require that the accuser be one who comes into court without a burning desire for revenge or resentment over private injury, but having in mind only to prevent the efforts of a destructive man from doing harm to society. For if you remove a vengeful mind, that command which forbids revenge to Christians is not broken.

But, some will object, not only are they forbidden to desire revenge, but they are also bidden to wait upon the hand of the Lord, who promises that he will be present to avenge the oppressed and afflicted [Romans 12:19]; while those who seek aid from the magistrate, either for themselves or for others, anticipate all the vengeance of the Heavenly Protector. Not at all! For we must consider that the magistrate’s revenge is not man’s but God’s, which he extends and exercises, as Paul says [Romans 13:4], through the ministry of man for our good.

20. The Christian endures insults, but with amity and equity defends the public interest

We are not in any more disagreement with Christ’s words in which he forbids us to resist evil, and commands us to turn the right cheek to him who has struck the left, and to give our cloak to him who has taken away our coat [Matthew 5:39-40].[9][42] He indeed wills that the hearts of his people so utterly recoil from any desire to retaliate that they should rather allow double injury to be done them than desire to pay it back. And we are not leading them away from this forbearance. For truly, Christians ought to be a kind of men born to bear slanders and injuries, open to the malice, deceits, and mockeries of wicked men. And not that only, but they ought to bear patiently all these evils. That is, they should have such complete spiritual composure that, having received one offense, they make ready for another, promising themselves throughout life nothing but the bearing of a perpetual cross. Meanwhile, let them also do good to those who do them harm, and bless those who curse them [Luke 6:28; cf. Matthew 5:44], and (this is their only victory) strive to conquer evil with good [Romans 12:21]. So minded, they will not seek an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, as the Pharisees taught their disciples to desire revenge, but, as we are instructed by Christ, they will so suffer their body to be maimed, and their possessions to be maliciously seized, that they will forgive and voluntarily pardon those wrongs as soon as they have been inflicted upon them [Matthew 5:38 ff.]

Yet this equity and moderateness of their minds will not prevent them from using the help of the magistrate in preserving their own possessions, while maintaining friendliness toward their enemies; or zealous for public welfare, from demanding the punishment of a guilty and pestilent man, who, they know, can be changed only by death. For Augustine truly interprets the purpose of all these precepts. The righteous and godly man should be ready patiently to bear the malice of those whom he desires to become good, in order to increase the number of good men-not to add himself to the number of the bad by a malice like theirs. Secondly, these precepts pertain more to the preparation of the heart which is within than to the work which is done in the open, in order that patience of mind and good will be kept in secret, but that we may openly do what we see may benefit those whom we ought to wish well.[10][43]

21. Paul condemns a litigious spirit, but not all litigation

But the usual objection — that Paul has condemned lawsuits altogether — is also false [1 Corinthians 6:5-8]. It can easily be understood from his words that there was an immoderate rage for litigation in the church of the Corinthians — even to the point that they exposed to the scoffing and evil speaking of the impious the gospel of Christ and the whole religion they professed. Paul first criticized them for disgracing the gospel among believers by the in-temperateness of their quarrels. Secondly, he rebuked them also for contending in this way among themselves, brethren with brethren. For they were so far from bearing wrongs that they greedily panted after one another’s possessions, and without cause assailed and inflicted loss upon one another. Therefore, Paul inveighs against that mad lust to go to law, not simply against all controversies.

But he brands it a fault or weakness for them not to accept the loss of their goods, rather than to endeavor to keep them, even to the point of strife. That is, when they were so easily aroused by every loss, and dashed to the court and to lawsuits over the least causes, he speaks of this as proof that their minds are too prone to anger, and not enough disposed to patience. Christians ought indeed so to conduct themselves that they always prefer to yield their own right rather than go into a court, from which they can scarcely get away without a heart stirred and kindled to hatred of their brother. But when any man sees that without loss of love he can defend his own property, the loss of which would be a heavy expense to him, he does not offend against this statement of Paul, if he has recourse to law. To sum up (as we said at the beginning[11][44]), love will give every man the best counsel. Everything undertaken apart from love and all disputes that go beyond it, we regard as incontrovertibly unjust and impious.

John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion (Philadelphia, 1960), IV,  pp. 1502-1509Calvin, John. Institutes of the Christian Religion, ed. John T. McNeill, trans. Ford Lewis Battles, The Library of Christian Classics, XX‑XXI. Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1960.

The World is Watching Us

***
One of the key signs of a healthy person and a healthy church is looking at the fruit they exhibit.  What kind of love do they show?  How do they model Christ to the world?  The world is watching and judging.
I read some words yesterday that were shocking to me on many levels.  They hurt me as a mother.  They hurt me as I thought about my daughter and what those words might mean to her.  They were not loving.  They were not gracious.  They did not think the best in someone.  It baffled my brain how these words and suggestions could come from a Believer. 
Right now, I am issuing a Trigger alert.  What this means is that people who have suffered spiritual abuse are likely to get an emotional response to this post.  Read this post at your own risk.
 

“So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.”  John 13:34

At church on Sunday, the speaker discussed something so important for Christians to understand:  we as Christians must understand that God has given the world the right to judge us.  The overall theme was love and as I read the comment that was posted about my daughter (which follows) and thought back over all that has gone on over the past 5 months during the lawsuit, the past 3-1/2 yrs we have not been able to get to any reasonable resolution because all communication has been rejected by the other side, the 2 years we were at a church where God’s truth was distorted and twisted and left people spiritually abandoned and confused, some completely leaving the faith/church, dealing with the crazy Mark & Avoid lists of shunning and breaking up relationships, etc, one thing that has stood out so loud and clear to me is the lack of love for people and their souls.
 

“And may the Lord make your love for one another and for all people grow and overflow.” 1 Thes 3:12


“But we don’t need to write to you about the importance of loving each other, for God himself has taught you to love one another.
Indeed, you already show your love for all the believers throughout Macedonia. 
Even so, dear brothers and sisters, we urge you to love them even more.”  1 Thes 4:9-10

“If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.” 1 Cor. 13:3
 
“…love your neighbor as yourself”  Lev. 19:18
Now some may think this next comment is petty, but it really isn’t.  God cared about names and we even see where he changed names (Saul/Paul).   I have informed him quite a few times how to spell my name, that I do not go by “Julie”.  Addressing people properly by their name shows respect at a basic level.  It’s not difficult to give this basic courtesy, yet I continually see my name shown in various forms by him, rarely the correct form.  I’ve even suggested using JA for simplification (and which I am perfectly fine with), yet it seems he prefers anything but my proper name.   What’s up with that?  The fruit is evident.   Keep in mind, I have been interacting with him for a few months now, so this is not anything new to him.
You may have read The Other Tom’s comment in yesterday’s post regarding a comment that Fred posted on his blog.  Brace yourself.  It is disgusting. Here is Fred’s comment that I copied from his blog.  Notice also that he brings out a major distraction to the real issue of spiritual abuse.  My daughter is the focus of the distraction below.  The lawsuit and the ongoing issues we have had with the church have never focused on our daughter, yet he wrongly puts Hannah front and center as a key piece in this battle: 
 
 
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * 
    
Blogger Fred Butler said…

Julie A. writes, Me afraid? I don’t think so. I think it shows pretty clearly you were evading my question and it makes me wonder what you were trying to hide by not answering my question 5 times (Twitter, my blog, your blog and other blogs). 

and

Really???? Proof, please. My daughter posted one Google review before she was sued. That Google review was posted late Dec 11 or early Jan ’12. I am not aware of any others before that. You sure are coming across like you have info. Provide it here publicly. He accused me and those with me of going from church to church spreading junk.  

I never spread anything in any church. My daughter didn’t go to church. She has no interest in God or church since dealing with Chuck. So, please give me the inside story that even I don’t know about, Fred. 


I haven’t evaded any questions of yours and like I wrote on the previous occasion, I never had any insider information…


That is, until as of yesterday evening when I received an email from a church member at Grace Bible with some additional information I did not know before. According to this individual, who is not the pastor or in pastoral leadership to my immediate knowledge, one of the big parts to the back story that you demand proof about is that your daughter was fornicating with a guy.


Now. Before I continue, is that true or is this person lying? Was your unbelieving daughter involved in an illicit sexual relationship with a guy? 


Perhaps you have discussed this on your blog and I missed it, but if that is true, that places the events involving your daughter and this church into an entirely different context and changes the dynamics of your complaint against them. We can maybe discuss if how the situation was handled was good. Maybe they were overly harsh when they confronted her and dealt with the aftermath, but that hardly makes the pastor a terrible cult leader.


If an unbelieving daughter of a church member is found out to be fornicating are you seriously suggesting that a pastor is to just “let that go”? Just “let the family take care of it”? And not say anything? 


Do you readers know about this situation if it is true? Again, maybe you have written on it, but I haven’t seen anything, so please direct me to a post where you have if that is the case.
7:05 AM, August 01, 2012

 
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I spoke at length with Hannah about this today.  What we have here is a man who has entertained gossip from a church member, not even someone in leadership.  This member does not even know any of us as she came after we left.   She is taking information told to her, not first-hand knowledge.  Fred has taken that juicy gossip and published it broadly on the internet without the decency to fact check.  Fred asked the questions publicly without regard to the harmful and hurtful consequences of such questions.  Just a couple days ago, I e-mailed Fred regarding duplicating posts on his blog and asked him to remove one.  Here is a copy of my e-mail:   
Fred could easily have contacted me before posting such gossip.  He also has my personal phone number and I have asked him numerous times to give me a call if he has questions.  He has refused.  He intentionally made the choice to not contact me and instead made the choice to publicize information that had no business being broadcast on the internet without fact checking (and actually had no business on the internet at all).   
Healthy pastors and church leaders do not behave this way.  This is wrong.


“Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.” 1 Cor. 13:7“Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.”  1 Cor. 13:13

Why would someone do such a thing?  Was his intention to harm Hannah and our family? 
“Love each other as brothers and sisters.
Be tenderhearted, and keep a humble attitude.” 1 Peter 3:8
Fred likes to go on about how I have been slandering my former pastor and church publicly.  When we had issues with our former church, the discussions began very small – with the pastor and elders.  When that didn’t work, another pastor was brought in for mediation, but that mediation was turned down by the pastor.  The circled widened as the pastor/elders closed the doors to dialogue.  Fred did not begin small.  He took a piece of gossip and did not consider keeping the circle small.  Instead, he went straight to the internet.  Fred, is that what they teach you at Grace Community Church (GCC)?  I’m flabbergasted.  How would you feel if someone did this to your daughter?  I keep getting the picture of the Scarlet Letter in my mind with the big “A” hanging on my daughter.  Crazy!
Love is patient and kind.
Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude.
It does not demand its own way.
It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged.  
It does not rejoice about injustice but 
rejoices whenever the truth wins out.”  1 Cor. 13:4-6
What has Fred learned at GCC and Master’s College about entertaining gossip?  He has clearly not demonstrated anything that I have learned from his pastor/teacher whom I do respect.

“Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church.”  Eph 4:15

Secular media will not publish such a story without confirming with sources, yet Fred Butler, a Bible teacher from Grace Community Church, graduate of the Master’s Seminary, employed by Grace to You, freely posted this gossip without regard to the ramification of my daughter’s reputation, her person, her dignity.  He assumed the worst in our daughter.  That is not love.  That is not thinking the best of someone as scripture exhorts.  Does secular media hold higher standards of moral conduct than Christians?  It appears so in this case.  This is shameful behavior.  Fred, the world is judging your behavior.  
Healthy pastors and church leaders do not behave this way.  This is wrong.  


“Always be humble and gentle.Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love.”  Eph 4:2

How would Bren (the BGBC church member you apparently got this allegation from) get this kind of sensitive information unless it was disclosed from the pastor?  Bren doesn’t even know us.  She received second-hand information and Fred posted it?  What kind of pastor discloses information that is privileged for only pastor/young adult/parents?  My daughter was never placed in any church discipline.  We were there for 11 months after Hannah left and there was no discussion of this whatsoever.  The topic of sexual immorality never came up.  Why?  Because it didn’t happen.  
Healthy pastors and church leaders do not behave this way.  This is wrong.  

“Dear brothers and sisters, we can’t help but thank God for you, because your faith is flourishing and your love for one another is growing.” 2 Thes 1:3

If there was no church discipline, the church congregation has no business knowing about it.  The reason there was no church discipline regarding this issue is because the issue did not exist.  This is a complete lie, fabricated by someone, perhaps the pastor.  The pastor has shared sensitive information before, including names, on issues that the regular congregants had no business knowing (as I disclosed in court documents).  
Yes, our former pastor disclosed things to me that I had no business knowing – about specific people in the congregation regarding very sensitive topics.  The things he disclosed to me surely should have remained behind closed doors, kept only between the pastor and the congregant (or possibly with elders).  I was shocked and this was also added to my list of red flags that caused me great concern and eventually led to the several meetings at the end of our time there.  
Healthy pastors and church leaders do not behave this way.  This is wrong.  
Let this be a warning to those who remain there:  your personal information is never safe and it may be twisted and exaggerated or lied and possibly broadcast on the internet, spread by church members who believe they are spreading the truth, when in fact it is a lie.  
Here is the comment from church member, Bren (who is a frequent Google review burier):
Insider scoop?  Gossip?  Bren spread false information about my daughter – presumably told by the pastor and it was spread to the internet, yet when real rape/sodomy occurred in the church, the pastor admittedly covered it up and kept silent.  In fact, we have been told by those who were at the church at the time and now have left (a few families) that the church was only told about “inappropriate touch”.   This convicted sex offender is not incarcerated for inappropriate touch, but for rape, etc, and multiple counts of sexual offenses.  This was not a one-time incident, but multiple incidences with more than one child.  So stories are fabricated about my daughter, yet when illicit sexual crimes are being perpetrated by a young man at church, the story is changed and minimized.  This is messed up stuff.  
Healthy pastors and church leaders do not behave this way.  This is wrong.  The world is watching and judging.

“Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.”  John 13:34b

A bigger issue here is that a young adult’s sexual indiscretions (whether it actually happened or not) has no bearing on the issue of spiritual abuse, period.  This is an attempt to draw attention to a side issue that never existed and to get me worked up.  


“Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins.” 1 Peter 4:8

Fred has a long-standing agenda to stand up on behalf of pastors who are wronged by congregants who have authority issues and seems to lump them all in the same bundle.  At the same time, he gives a free pass to someone who goes to his church’s Shepherd’s conference year after year and was selected to go to expositor’s school.  Just because a pastor goes to Shepherd’s Conference and expositor’s school at a great place does not mean they pass the healthy pastor test.  

They profess to know God, but in works they deny Him, being abominable, disobedient, and disqualified for every good work.   Titus 1:16

Listen, Fred.  Your buddy, the one who went against pastors Phil Johnson’s advice and Bill Shannon’s advice and against the Bible sued and lost the court case.  He is dragging his church through a financial fiasco to pay for attorney’s bills, court costs, filing fees, etc.  Between his attorney bill and ours, the church’s tithe money and/or other resources could be paying close to six figures for this ridiculous lawsuit.  God is surely not pleased.  He didn’t need to do that.  Why are you defending a man who refuses communication with former congregants?   Why are you defending a man who did not report to the authorities gross sexual abuse against children (rape, sodomy)?  In your quest to defend all pastors who have disgruntled congregants, you are missing the bigger picture here:  Spiritual Abuse.  
We have gone the biblical route and have many more witnesses than the Bible requires.  We offered phone numbers of long-time members who were leaders/elder from the church, but you and other pastors from GCC refused to make the call, not wanting to get involved. You are overlooking very basic issues we have brought out and are blinded to the truth in your quest to protect pastors.  Brother, the blood is going to be on your hands.  You are acting like a spiritual authority and missing obvious signs and refusing to deal with people who have been crying out for years.

James 3:1 “Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.”

At the very least, Fred, I am asking that you publicly apologize to my sweet daughter who has been hurt directly by you in your public blog post and comments.  Does her soul not matter to you?  How dare you do such a thing!  
The world is watching and judging Christians and surely they are observing this poor behavior.  You have the opportunity to make things right, Fred.  I hope you do.  

Hannah’s Personal Story in Her Own Words

Readers:  I’ve had this post in my “draft posts” for quite some time, but the time to post it is now and I will explain more about that very soon.  You’ll see why it is important to hear from her own words.

I shared my perspective of Hannah’s story in the most popular blog post, In Honor of Hannah.   What’s interesting is that our former pastor has obviously included Hannah in the phrase “Julie Anne and those with her,” because she was part of the $500,000 defamation lawsuit.  Hannah had no interest in the dealings of the church after leaving, of waging war with God, the church, with families as has been said.   She’s been too busy working full-time and going to school full-time getting her degree trying to survive on her small income.

I texted Hannah earlier today and she knows I am posting her story and gave permission to post this picture taken of us at her graduation (might as well finally post a decent picture considering all of the funky media pictures out there of us – lol – proud mama moment right there!).  She said she will probably add more to the story when she gets home from work today because this was written months ago before we won the lawsuit, so you can check back later for any additions.

Hannah’s Personal Story in Her Own Words
 
 
 

I’ve been wanting to write a more detailed account of my side of the story, and with it becoming viral and the numerous questions my mother has faced such as the common “how could she do that to her oldest daughter?” I thought maybe if I shared my perspective so they can see it is not just my mother’s story, for I’m a BGBC survivor as well. We started attending BGBC shortly after I celebrated my homeschool high-school graduation with a few other homeschoolers from our old church where I had been a part of most of my middle and high-school years. With many of my friends then going off to other college campuses, my family wanted to find a church that was going a different direction, namely more towards evangelism by door-to-door knocking and conversations with strangers wherever we could find them.  

 

At first, I enjoyed it. I had been passionate about my beliefs for much of my life, I had taught bible classes in Pioneer Girls and Awanas, been on a couple of overseas missions trips to Honduras and Portugal, and thought that God was calling me to be a missionary to Muslims overseas. My father and I had always had a strong connection with regards to spiritual matters, we went to evangelism and creation seminars together whenever we could. In my growing up years, my mother and I seemed to have a strained relationship, even though we always ended up talking through the issues. I seemed to be generally in and out of trouble, little things constantly. I pushed her buttons, but all in all, I don’t think I was a “bad” child. I was the oldest, and I liked to do my own thing.

Skip forward a couple of years, I had never formally joined BGBC as a member. I was taking classes at the local community college where I met a guy. He challenged me to re-think everything I knew and believed in. He didn’t want me to leave Christianity (he actually still considers me a Christian even though I no longer profess a belief). But through discussions with him, I started to look at my life and realized that I was living in a bubble. That bubble was basically white, middle-class, Christian, homeschooling families. It was a small segment of a much bigger world. I wanted to explore life and see what it meant to me without feeling pressure from anything or anyone else.

So here I was almost 21, working 4 part-time nanny jobs so I could put myself through a full-time school load to finish my degree (and I didn’t have a car due to my finances and wanting to complete school as fast as I could, so I biked or bused my commutes). When I added up the time I was at BGBC, which alone was about 20 hours a week including Friday night evangelizing on the street or at malls. Christianity was such an ingrained part of my family’s life that there was no way that I’d be allowed to live at home and not go to church. Plus I’d still have my family responsibilities and chores. I was honestly suffering burn-out with all the activities I had to do. I loved my family, adored my siblings, and respected my parents, but I knew and they knew that I couldn’t do what I wanted and live with them at the same time.

So I told my parents that I was doubting my faith and I wanted to move out so I could explore my possibilities and figure myself out. I think that tore both of my parents’ hearts in two. We were a close family, we did everything together. I still think I have the best brothers in the world, and how many sisters say that? I have a sister who I adore, and while we had our moments, she was my best friend, and I spoiled her as much as I could.  


Even if my parents had agreed that I didn’t have to go to church and could stay home to be with the family, I still think I would have moved out. I wanted a clean break from everything. I would still have had to work around seeing my Christian friends who would have felt compelled to try to “bring me back”. I would still have had those awkward run-ins at the grocery store. I didn’t want my parents to have to give an answer for my actions if I had been seen drinking an alcoholic beverage, or wearing clothes that didn’t fit the BGBC “dress code”. I wasn’t planning on being irresponsible with my life or my body. I didn’t move out so I could get drunk, go to parties, try drugs, or act like a crazy college girl. I wanted to do it the right way as much as possible, which I think I succeeded. Moving across town was very helpful and aided my healing since I was able to be myself and not have to look over my shoulder to make sure someone I used to know hadn’t seen me drink that beer. (Note, my parents don’t have anything against alcohol, but anyone at the church could have spun it a wrong way.)

My father, in utter disbelief that I could denounce my faith (he was a Calvinist so this was unthinkable and practically an impossibility in his mind) and Chuck arranged a “meeting” with me that truthfully was really coerced.  I did not want to be there. They sat me down in his office and read verse after verse and got me to feel sorry and repentant by pointing out that I respected my elders and so should do what they said.  

Pastor Chuck’s best idea for getting me to “come back to the faith” was to take away my cell phones (I had two, the contract was in my name, that I entirely paid for), forbid me from going on the internet, told me to stop taking classes in a “worldly” school, as well as leave my various jobs, and that I was to stay home all day and basically only leave it to go to church.  

After thinking about that for a day or two, I decided that that was utterly ridiculous and sounded like brain-washing to me. I thought, “If Christianity is that great, shouldn’t it be obvious? Why can’t I go out on my own? If it’s so great, I’ll for sure come back to the faith anyways – following their logic”. I knew I could ask questions, but I had a feeling the answers would be skewed, and hammered down into me like I was treated at that meeting. I wanted to be treated like an adult, to be given the pros and cons, to have the other adults admit that I had valid concerns, and not act like I was stupid and under the influence of a male friend who they thought might be trying to steal me away from the faith, the church, and my family.

I was 21, a legal adult. I could move out and find the answers to my questions if I wanted. As my mother has explained so eloquently before, this was not an easy decision. I had to be willing to give up my family, my siblings, my friends (since they were all Christians), my jobs, and temporarily suspend my college classes. My father (under influence I believe of Chuck) had told me that they weren’t going to help me in any way. I didn’t want them to help. I was going to sink or swim, and damn if I wasn’t going to do it all by myself (which is the story of my life, my mother will tell you). I hoped that they would soften up. I didn’t want to lose my family, but I knew I had to get out or I would go crazy. If nothing else, I would work my hardest so that my siblings would have a place to go if they decided they needed to get out as well. It was definitely going to be harder since I wouldn’t have my home-cooked meals, or even a bed at that time. I would have to work to provide everything I needed, but I could do it. I was determined.

I did leave, about two weeks after my 21st birthday. I remember it well. December 31st, 2008. I went to church one last time, said a quick goodbye to my friends (most of whom only found out that I was leaving at that time), called an LDS lady I had connected with on craigslist and she and her boyfriend picked up me and my belongings. I thought it fitting that I left on Sunday, after church, and that the first day of the new year was the first day of my new life. From that point on, I never referred to myself as a Christian. I don’t hold any judgment on those that do, but I’m tired of the endless debates that go on between and within any type of believer, be it pagan, atheist, mormon, baptist, etc. I’ve realized that we all have our beliefs, and trying to persuade someone who is convinced otherwise is a waste of my valuable time.

With regards to me and my family and particularly my parents. I honestly believe we were in a cult. It’s like a gas that has no smell or taste, you can’t sense it until you are under its effects. Once you are out of its grasp, you can look back and realize that you were under its influence, I’ve heard people say that hindsight is 20/20 vision, I think that is true. I don’t fault my parents for how they reacted to my declaration. They believed and acted in the way they thought best at that time. I can look back and see that they acted differently in the few years they were at BGBC than they had ever acted in the 18 years prior. Since then, we have spent countless hours talking, going over what happened, apologizing to each other, etc. My mother never stopped talking me me, seeking to rebuild a stronger relationship on a foundation of communication and openness. The current bond between my mother and I is stronger than it has ever been in the past. I’m not going to hold what happened in the past over her head, I don’t think like that. It happened, she has felt horrible about it, I could have moved out in a more gracious way, but dwelling on it doesn’t help. Would my parents and I have done it differently at the time if we knew then what we know now? Of course. There were failures and stumbles on both sides.

But in the end, my parents had raised me right. They had given me the tools to be a productive independent adult. I was able to stand on my own two feet, think for myself, live my life, and make friends. I had a found a job near my apartment within a month, and have been employed ever since, even able to occasionally tutor high schoolers in math. I saved my hard-earned money to buy my first car and paid it off in 5 months. I worked a full-time job and attended school full-time at University of Phoenix to attain my Bachelor’s Degree in Business, attending school during the summer and skipping possible vacations so I could do it by taking as few student loans as possible. I am still to this day involved in various volunteer opportunities. My parents had succeeded with me.

Speed up to last December. My mother had said that she had written a review on BGBC’s website and it wasn’t there anymore. We had already noticed the church members’ tactics of burying the negative google reviews under their positive ones by slightly tweaking their reviews so they’d stay consistently on top. When she said that, I thought that I’d write a review, partly as a way to defend my mother, as well as a way to tell my own story. That church had hurt me. It had caused a rift between me and my parents. So I wrote my review, and it was buried, but it stayed there.

And now here we are today. I don’t think Chuck’s lawsuit was aimed at me, it’s aimed at my mother. I was fuel to add to the fire. Chuck never tried to contact me after I left the church. I never knew if I was shunned or excommunicated, as I didn’t talk or associate with anyone at that church unless they initiated the conversation. I lived a good 45 minutes away on the other side of town purposely so I wouldn’t accidentally run into people I knew from my “old” life. Honestly, I was busy just living my life, finishing up my Bachelor’s degree, building my career, finding new friends. But now I’m involved in a half-a-million dollar lawsuit. Life has a strange way of working. But I’m glad I’m in this . I will stand by my mother every step of the way. It’s her blog, but she, and I, and the other defendants, and EVERYONE has a right to their opinion, especially if they believe it’s the truth. The best defense against defamation is just that – the truth. And the truth is what my mother wrote, and truth is what I wrote.



I’m issuing a Trigger Alert.  This means anything below this point in the comments section may be emotionally upsetting.  I have had enough personal e-mails to know that many of my readers have been affected negatively by Fred Butler’s comments.  I urge you to read at your own risk.

The News and My Thoughts

As many of you know, I have been at a Christian high school summer camp as a counselor since Sunday.  We had been expecting the results any day, so I had my smartphone which is really pretty much useless when you are in a remote area.  There’s one spot out by the flagpole where I can get internet about 80% of the time.  Crazy.  But thankfully, my attorney told me what time her mail came so I didn’t have to keep checking throughout day.

So yesterday, I was with one of my campers having precious one-on-one time.  We had been talking about 30 minutes or so on the dining hall deck (close to the same place of the earlier picture I posted – Sunday).  I noticed one of the camp directors hanging around.  After the meeting with my camper was finished, the director told me that there was a phone call from my attorney and it was good news.  I tried to get to the flagpole to get to the e-mail quickly, but the internet was not cooperating, so I went to the office and called Linda.  The news was better than I imagined – every single claim dismissed.  We only spoke for a couple minutes, but oh how sweet that news was.  

I ran outside to tell the staff person the news and she said, “Go!, Go!” and shooed me out.  All four camp directors knew of the case and knew that I would need to have a little time to send out information.  So, back up those stairs I sprinted, grabbed my laptop and came to the counselor’s lounge where there was decent internet.  

I sat down on the couch and with tears in my eyes, I tried to absorb what this meant.  My attorney, Linda Williams, had prepared me that there certainly was the possibility that the lower court might miss something or be confused about something.  When my close friends asked how I thought the case would go, I told them I thought that everything would get dismissed except the sexual abuse comment.  I based this on the judge’s question in the courtroom and also the media response.  I knew, of course, the phrase wasn’t defamatory, but that’s where I thought it might get hung up and was mentally prepared to deal with that.

My attorney was nothing short of amazing.  She was confident from the very beginning.  Why?  Because she knows the law.  She knew our phrases were not defamatory.  From our first meeting where she, Hannah, and I met at a coffee shop, Linda went over the original complaint with a pencil or pen and pointed out phrase after phrase:  “no, that’s not defamatory, that’s opinion”, “this is just not defamatory”.  Or she pointed out that phrases had to do with religion and “the courts will not touch those”.  She believes in First Amendment rights and what it means for Americans.  I am so thankful for Linda, for the many, many hours she worked on our case, and the many combined hours she spent on the phone with Hannah, Meaghan, and me.  She was so reassuring the entire time.   Linda Williams, thank you so much!! 


So here we are – the case100% dismissed.  Wow.  I saw a comment wondering if my former pastor/church can appeal.  I asked my attorney this question.  Yes, they can appeal.  I would not be surprised if they do.   I am not afraid.  First Amendment is Linda’s thing.  Simply put, our words were and are not defamatory.  If they appeal and it goes to a higher level court, the higher level courts have more experience with defamation and it will be even more clear to them.  I am not worried.  







You see those stairs right there?  I am intimately acquainted with these stairs.  Did I say intimately?   Yes, intimately.  You cannot see all of the stairs.  There are two sets of stairs.  I have to climb around 55 steps on the right stair case or around 65 steps on the left side to get to my cabin.  The first day I was at camp, I realized that by 10AM, I had already climbed them four times.  You do the math and tell me how many times those babies are climbed each day.  I was going to say how awesomely buff my legs are becoming, but that hasn’t happened quite yet.  But at this point, I can sprint up them without running out of breath.  I can hear you all woo-hooing right now.  Thank you, very much.  🙂


With this new day, I am keenly aware that when I wrote my first Google review about my church experience – an experience that is still affecting my family today, I knew that this was a big, big battle.  I was aware that it was going on in other churches.  Somehow in a very strange happening, God chose to use my case to help spotlight this thing we identify as spiritual abuse.  It happened quickly and now we have this amazing place where people can tell their stories,  discuss how it happens, what it looks like, the results of spiritual, how to not get into a bad situation again, and so many other topics.  These topics are real and very relevant to so many.  


The picture of that staircase reminds me that we are climbing this battle.  I am going to keep climbing the staircase of this battle even though my court case is over (at least for the time being).  I am committed to this battle.  Stay tuned.  I will write more later when I get home.  Our camp counselor’s meeting will start soon, so I want to get this posted and read a few comments before our last full day of camp begins.  


Big hugs to you all!   Please excuse typos.  I’m typing fast!





My Story – Key Blog Posts

 


I  began this blog in Feb. 2012 after noticing that the Google reviews I had posted of my former church were being removed. Days after the commencement of this blog, I received a legal summons suing me and three others for defamation to the tune of $500,000. The story of spiritual abuse needs to be told. People are being hurt emotionally and spiritually by abusive pastors who use bully tactics;  we need a place to learn, to talk freely, and to heal. I will not be silenced. 


On May 21, 2012, we had our first court hearing.  Two of the original 4 defendants were voluntarily dismissed from the lawsuit, leaving Hannah and me.  Later, Meaghan was added to the lawsuit, plaintiffs claiming her comments on my blog were defamatory.  


I believe the lawsuit is an extension of the spiritual abuse we incurred.  A key part of spiritual abuse is control and especially controlling what people can and cannot say, in this case, months and years after leaving a church.  When Chuck O’Neal and BGBC decided to sue us in the legal court system, they challenged the rights of free speech for everyone who shares their stories and opinions online.  This story should be of grave concern to all in the United States, especially bloggers, opinion and review sites, political sites, etc.     July 13, 2012 is the court hearing at the Washington County Courthouse in Hillsboro, Oregon.  The time is scheduled at 1:30 p.m. The judge’s decision could have a profound effect on those who use the internet to express their thoughts and opinions. 
UPDATE:  On July 28, 2012, Judge Fun dismissed the entire case.  We won!  Chuck O’Neal and Beaverton Grace Bible Church had to pay all court costs and attorney fees for the prevailing defendants – approximately $60,000.  




Legal online sites are acknowledging the threat.  Here is one from Citizen Media Law Project, including court documents.

Here is  my court declaration.

A few people have asked for a condensed version of “my story”.  My story is not written out like that, but in bits and pieces as posts for the blog.  So, in the meantime, I thought it might be helpful to have one post which includes links to the key posts to my story so readers do not have to wade through all of them.  ~ja



 

How Dare You Leave Our Church!– – – In this article, I describe the atmosphere presented at the church – that our pastor proclaimed our church to be the best. This was an unhealthy elitism.  I also describe a pattern that I noticed of families staying for 4-6 months and then vanishing without ever mentioning them again.  This was one of the first clear signs of something amiss.  
 
 
False Teachers Who Mark and Avoid Church Members – Pastors who twist scripture are doing so for their own personal gain.  This shocking article is about how some pastors twist scripture and Mark and Avoid church members/former members by the very painful and destructive practice of shunning.  This method is used by cults.  



You Won’t Find a Better Church  – This article discusses more of the elitism we were taught.  No church could ever measure up to our church.  What are the implications of that kind of thinking?

 
The Lawsuit – – These are my thoughts after I received the subpoena (Mar. 2012)
 
You Can’t Make This Stuff Up, Part 1 – Extra-biblical rules (men shouldn’t wear pink) 
 
 
You Just Can’t Make This Stuff Up, Part 2 More extra (women shouldn’t wear dark “manly” colors)
 
Chuck O’Neal Secretly Recorded Private Conversations – – -This discusses both Meaghan and my experience of the pastor/elders coming to our homes unannounced and recording (or attempting to record) our private conversations without our permission.
 
Disobedient Children and Meetings with the Pastor – -The pattern we observed was that all children/teens would be brought to the pastor’s office for discipline issues at one time or another.  These intense meetings represented the underlying tone we experienced.
 
Children’s Church – In the 2 yrs 2 mos we attended the church, the children only covered Ephesians 1:1-17.    Weeks and weeks were spent on one verse at a time.  How much of the Bible would have been covered by the time they became an adult at this rate?
 
Youth Groups? Not at Our Church! – In the pastor’s attempt to have an elite church, he expressed great disdain for modern youth groups.  While our former church had no official youth group, the youth most certainly did meet and the “fruit” of the “unofficial youth groups” was far worse than I’ve seen in conventional supervised youth groups.  
 
The Bully Pulpit  We found the pastor frequently used the “bully pulpit” to preach to the congregation when someone was caught in sin.  It’s not a pleasant environment when you have been caught in sin and the pastor uses the teaching time to address your sin from the pulpit.  You know he is talking about you the whole time.  This sometimes happened for several weeks in a row – and many times was on the topic of sexual immorality.
 
Just Who is Acting Like Korah Around Here?  Part 1… – We discovered a pattern of scriptures used in reference to people who he felt was being divisive and labeling them as “Korah”.  This is an example of  hyper-authoritarian behavior which created a very uncomfortable church atmosphere.
 
Baptism:  Was It Genuine or for Show? – We saw evidence of baptism being more of a show, rather than a genuine act of obedience in faith.  This was very disturbing.    Some were not even convinced of their salvation after being baptised – they did it because of feeling pressure.
 
Evangelize When it Looks Good – There was a strong emphasis on evangelism at this church, but why was there no willingness to go after my “wayward” daughter or other “tough cases”?  Evangelizing only when it’s easy or looks good?  Maybe.
 
Manipulating Reviews Yet Again – Here I document how BGBC congregants flooded the Google reviews to bury a negative review.  It’s all about the image.  
 
Damage Control – How Do I Look?  After the lawsuit, we saw the church go into “damage control” mode on their church website, making it a softer, gentler, family friendly site.  Again, it’s all about the image.  
 
Lawsuit Update:  New Information!! – Meaghan V. was added to the lawsuit after posting a comment using her real name (most other members feel the need to post anonymously because they don’t want to be sued).  I reference 3 of the pastor’s sermons on submitting to State authority.
 
Dare to Leave:  One Family’s Tragic Account – Very few people want to publicize their story.  They are afraid of repercussions.  This person dared to share.
 
Legalism:  Do Not Expose Your Thighs! – What is it like living in a church with legalistic rules about where the hem of shorts should land on your legs and you have a son who is 6’8”?  
 
In Honor of Hannah – This post is the most popular post on the blog.  So much of we experienced is difficult to describe in clear facts.  This describes the emotional part of what I dealt with in a very real way – when our adult daughter abruptly moved out of the home because of the intense emotional/physical pressures she was facing by the demands of the church in addition to her busy life as a student/nanny.  This was very difficult to write.  
 
Walk the Talk! This post discusses the hypocrisy (and once again image) I saw at the Steps for Life walk in Portland year after year (a pro-life walkathon).   Publicly showing/walking/praying that you respect life, even the life of the unborn, yet failing to get in the trenches with people in real need at your own church seems hypocritical.  
 
Do I have an unforgiving heart? – – Reader asks this question which generated a lot of conversation.
 
 
Hyper-Modesty in the Church, Part 1  This is the beginning of a 3-part series on hyper-modesty which I believe led to a preoccupation with body parts and sexualizing.  Sexual immorality was a big problem here, much more in any other church I attended and I would attribute it to the legalistic/high authoritarian teachings.
 
 It’s the Same Message No Matter How you Mix it!  This is a 3-part series on repetitive sermons.  I started timing the sermons after comparing my notes and realizing that the pastor was using the basically the same sermons and mixing the order up with only 10-15 minutes of new material (in a 60-min. sermon).    In our 2-years there, he covered only Romans 12 to Romans 13:7.    In this series you will get to “experience” what it felt like for many of us 🙂  Be sure to read all three parts.  You may go crazy.  I did when writing it 🙂
 
 
Creepy Pastors and Churches Using Creepy Stalking Control Tactics Pastors who spend an exorbitant amount of time searching their names, former members’ names, current members’ names on the internet seem to have a different agenda than the Biblical model we see of pastors/shepherds.  This is/was our reality.  
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No Gossip Allowed in My Church!

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Great Is Thy Faithfulness

Summer and winter, and spring-time and harvest,
Sun, moon and stars in their courses above,
Join with all nature in manifold witness
To Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.
Great is Thy faithfulness! Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see;
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

I hope you will indulge me with a slight diversion.  I went for a walk this morning and saw this . . . .

and a little further down the path where there were more trees and greenery, and an island in the middle of the river where birds congregate, I heard this:

 

 

(ok, I’m a dork, but I love that loud squawk at the end). 

It’s been a year since we have moved from the land of green and never-ending rain in the Portland, OR area to the land of dry desert (only 4 hours away!) in eastern Washington.  I love lush green and could never imagine living in the desert, but now when I look at the above photo, I see beauty – immense beauty, and I’m so thankful to be at a place where I can look around and see this.  I’ve experienced all four seasons here and it is a different kind of beauty than what I’m used to, but it is breathtaking to me now.  I see God’s wonderful creation, both in the lush green and now in the desert.  God is not limited to a church building (and the people said AMEN!).  I want to encourage those who are struggling with God and how to find Him, to take a step back and connect with Him in safe places, on a morning walk, in song, in your relationships, etc.  Find what feels safe and rest there for a bit.  

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * 

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them,

for God has shown it to them. 

For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.

Romans 1:18-21

 

Once again, the comments have led the discussion to this topic and I think it’s important to dig a little deeper and talk about gossip as it relates to spiritually abusive churches.  

Gossip is an important topic in any church, actually in any environment, work, school, etc.  The bible is clear that it can tear down relationships and cause great division.  There are numerous verses on the topic, but here are a few:

 

“a perverse man stirs up dissension, and a gossip separates close friends” (Proverbs 16:28)

 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.  Rom 1:29-32

 

And here we read specifically about women as “gossips and busybodies, saying things they ought not to” (1 Timothy 5:12-13).  Ouch!

Dictionary’s definition of gossip:  casual or unconstrained conversation or reports about other people, typically involving details that are not confirmed as being true

The author of this article breaks the word gossip into six categories:

These are the 6 things that fall under the category of gossip. If anyone who calls themselves a person who loves the Lord, sings the praises of God, worships in fellowship with other believers, pray, read the Word of God, say they love God and at the same time engage in gossip and everything that goes along with gossip,(busybody, talebearer, slander, evil whispering, evil speaking and backbiting), is practicing hypocrisy therefore making that person a hypocrite! 
 

Yes, there is no doubt, gossip is a serious problem and we must be careful to not get caught in the trap.

Early this morning, I approved a one-word comment:  “Gossip”.  I was in bed when I approved it and unable to see the context, so my brain went on a wild goose chase trying to figure out the context.  I found the context here and it made sense:

 * * * * * * *

wallflowerJuly 4, 2012 9:12 PM

“on Saturday night, we got the call from an elder that we were not welcome to come to church there anymore.” Every time you post this I get the creeps. In our case there was a Saturday night phone call from the same “elder” who called you that effectively ended our time at the so-called church. Current attenders, be cautious if you get a Saturday night call from this elder! You may want to record it for legal reasons.

I’m not sure who you are, but I’ll bet we could have an interesting time sharing creepy stories.

 

Gossip

 


To Anonymous–

Not gossip, truth. Gossip is what comes from a certain pulpit where, instead of preaching the gospel of grace, members and former members of the church are railed against, by name, with lies and half-truths (again, lies).


THAT is gossip. It’s not excused because it comes from a pastor or from the pulpit. Imagine where that church would be if he worried less about others–and himself–and more about Christ and His flock.

People sharing true experiences is not gossip.

* * * * * *

Will’s comment was spot on!  The no-gossip rule ties in clearly with the “no-talk” rule (which is defined here in the Definition Section).  You see, if people were allowed to talk and share their experiences, enough people would have seen a pattern and this could have been dealt with before it got this far.  Instead, we have a cycle of “don’t gossip”, with pastor/elders reading scriptures like Hebrews 13:7 (Remember those who rule over you…) to hush us.  Bottom line is our talk was controlled.  We did not have liberty to discuss truths that we experienced freely because it was labeled as gossip.  

Truth sometimes is divisive.  It doesn’t mean it is always gossip.  We need to be careful about that.  What is the intention of our heart when we share our experiences?  Is it in anger or malice?  I know my intention for going public.  It was to say:  YO!!!  There’s a problem here.  God is not being honored in this situation, and in fact, God is being trampled upon by false teachings, hearts are turning AWAY from God, HELP!!!!

 

Will addresses something that I hadn’t considered regarding gossip from the pulpit.  He frequently mentioned current conflicts from the pulpit (between him and other “so-called” pastors, etc,), so it would only make sense that he would be bringing this lawsuit to the forefront of conversation at the church.  Look at what he posted publicly about me and others:



Chuck O’Neal ‎ – Nov 18, 2009

JulieAnne’s Destructive Slander Continues To Whom It May Concern: Almost a year ago JulieAnne and her husband were Biblically put out of Beaverton Grace Bible Church with a group of families and individuals that were engaged in ongoing divisive slander. After attending many churches and leaving them in a similar manner, the group has now splintered. Many of those in this factious group no longer attend church at all. It is sad to see that JulieAnne remains steadfast in her destructive behavior. For obvious reasons we exhort you to heed the following Scriptures:  Prov 6:16-19 16 These six things the LORD hates, Yes, seven are an abomination to Him: 17 A proud look, A lying tongue, Hands that shed innocent blood, 18 A heart that devises wicked plans, Feet that are swift in running to evil, 19 A false witness who speaks lies, And ONE WHO SOWS DISCORD AMONG BRETHREN. Prov 16:28 A perverse man SOWS STRIFE, And A WHISPERER SEPARATES THE BEST OF FRIENDS. Prov 26:20 Where there is NO WOOD, THE FIRE GOES OUT; And where there is NO TALEBEARER, STRIFE CEASES. Rom 16:17-18 NOW I URGE YOU, BRETHREN, NOTE THOSE WHO CAUSE DIVISIONS AND OFFENSES, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and AVOID THEM. 18 For those who are such do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly, and by smooth words and flattering speech deceive the hearts of the simple. Titus 3:9-11 But AVOID FOOLISH DISPUTES, genealogies, CONTENTIONS, and strivings about the law; for THEY ARE UNPROFITABLE AND USELESS. 10 REJECT A DIVISIVE MAN AFTER THE FIRST AND SECOND ADMONITION, 11 KNOWING THAT SUCH A PERSON IS WARPED AND SINNING, being self-condemned. It is our prayer that there will be no more wood thrown upon the fire of contentiousness, strife, discord, and division. It is our prayer that the fire will go out and that the body of Christ at BGBC will be able to press on “in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel” (Phil. 1:27). It is our prayer that those who started the fire and have cut, stacked, and stoked much wood upon it, will repent, for God’s glory and their blessing. If you have any questions, please contact the pastor and elders. May we be evermore convinced of mankind’s sinfulness and of our need for God’s amazing grace through faith in His beloved Son, Jesus Christ our Lord. God STILL has the whole world and His Church in His very capable hands. For Christ and His Church, Pastor Chuck O’Neal, Elder Dave Loynes, Elder Dale Weaver

and this is another review:

 

DEFAMATION IS A CRIME: It is convenient and crafty to wage a three and a half year war of reviling defamation in which you and those with you ACCUSE THE PASTOR AND CHURCH OF HORRIFIC CRIMES AGAINST GOD AND MEN, to then hide behind 1 Cor. 6:7-8.

FOR THREE AND A HALF YEARS JULIEANNE AND THOSE WITH HER, HAVE BEEN ENGAGED IN PUBLIC, CHURCH TO CHURCH, AND WORLD WIDE WEB DEFAMATION IN A SELFISH WILLINGNESS TO DISCREDIT GOD, HARM THE CHURCH, HARM WIVES, HARM CHILDREN, AND HARM THE TESTIMONY OF CHRIST’S GOSPEL. 

IN MATTERS OF GREAT DAMAGE TO OURSELVES OR FAMILIES, WE MAY USE LAWFUL MEANS TO RIGHT OURSELVES. WE ARE NOT BOUND TO SIT DOWN AND SUFFER THE INJURY TAMELY, WITHOUT STIRRING FOR OUR OWN RELIEF;

Anonymous is convinced that I am a gossip.  If the above was posted publicly, I can only imagine what is said to the remaining church privately and in church meetings to the congregation.  If this is what that congregation sees and perhaps hears on an ongoing base from the pastor, is it any wonder that I get “divisive” comments on my blog from time to time.  These comments are meant to challenge me.  The people in the church have come along side him in his thinking and I and “those with me” are considered the enemy.

In the context above, the Anonymous poster felt that sharing our creepy stories is gossip.  Stories that we might share with one another may be hard to hear, is uncomfortable, but it is the truth and not gossip.  I am speaking the truth in the most loving way I know because I care and love that body of Believers.  I care for their souls.  And believe it or not, I have love for the pastor as well.  The people of that church need a pastor who cares for their souls, not one who goes after former members in creepy ways.  Going after former members is destructive and a distraction to the real responsibility of a pastor.  It must be stopped.  So until it is stopped, those of us who have left must continue speaking the truth in love – – – which is NOT gossip.

***

Creepy Pastors and Churches Using Creepy Stalking Control Tactics

*     *     *
There have been a few stories of spiritual abuse in the news lately.  A kind reader sent me this article from The Christian Post:

 

Spiritual Abuse: Shepherds – or Fleecers – of God’s Flock?

 

This article starts by discussing the abuse of gaining members’ funds through unlawful methods in “Financial Empowerment Seminars.” The rest of the article discusses spiritual abuse, including a list of questions that might help one to determine if they are in a spiritually abusive church. This might be a good article to send to someone who wants to learn the basics of spiritual abuse.

Here is the list of questions from the article:

If you are trying to determine whether or not a particular group may be spiritually abusive, consider the following questions:

___ Do they exalt someone as an irrefutable authority in the group?
___ Do they demand your absolute allegiance?
___ Do they discourage your questions?
___ Do they shame people publicly?
___ Do they insist on making major decisions in your life?
___ Do they have a long list of rules related to dress, hairstyle, diet or activities?
___ Do they judge those who do not keep their list of rules?
___ Do they consider themselves the “only true church”?
___ Do they consider those who leave their group “apostates,” “backsliders” or        “doomed”?
___ Do they teach that godly people should give more financially so that they will receive more?

Over the weekend, I met with some people who had been a part of a cult for over a decade and we shared stories.  As soon as they left their cult, they were free and clear to start their new lives.  The difference with our story is that when we left, we were not free and clear.

I’ve mentioned how the pastor and elders came to our house unannounced a few weeks after we left with an undisclosed recording device demanding information = creepy.

Pastors who are doing God’s work, tending the sheep, preaching the Word do not have a paranoid personality.  They know there will be disgruntled people, but that is par for the course.  They continue the race set before them, walking in obedience, trying to do God’s work.  They are not preoccupied with their reputation, their image.  Their focus is not on themselves, but on others, helping them along their paths.

In our case, the two defendants (who were eventually dismissed) were accused of posting anonymous comments on the  Suspicious Berean website.  The date of the post is May 3, 2010.  This was approximately 1-1/2 yrs after the defendants had left the church.  These first two anonymous posts were part of the original defamation lawsuit:

Anonymous17 May, 2010 2:16 PM

You should be suspicious of him because Chuck O’Neal is a wolf. He rails again things such as Psychology yet if you look at his education you’ll find that he himself has a degree in Psychology?! Plus he runs “his” church like a cult controlling the flock with legalistic rules. He also heavily plagiarizes the messages of others or books in his “sermons” yet never gives credit where it is due. He controls his flock with an iron fist and if someone leaves the congregation for any reason he tells the flock not to speak to or associate with those who leave the congregation. He is a wolf and misleading the people of this congregation and please be warned! There’s more to be said but again, please be warned that Chuck is a wolf and if you look a little more thoroughly into his practices as a self proclaimed “pastor” you’ll see he’s a wolf.

Anonymous19 May, 2010 2:50 PM

Yes, He’s definitely a wolf.

(Side note:  I just noticed something.  The part about “plagiarism” was never listed in the lawsuit.  I wonder why not?)

Why our former pastor decided to sue those particular people, I will never know – the former defendants do not remember posting the comments and say the wording doesn’t sound like them.   But anyway, how would the pastor have found those comments on a random blog unless he or someone was doing internet searches?  And why would any pastor even be searching for himself on the internet?   For what purpose?

“For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you.”  Rom. 12:3

Notice the next two comments, people come to the pastor’s defense telling the previous commenters to “repent” and are threatened with God’s wrath.

Anonymous13 July, 2010 12:47 PM

Jeremiah urged Israel to submit to the coming invaders and was thrown into a well and called all kinds of names. Jeremiah was a faithful prophet. Pastor Chuck faithfully teaches God’s holy Word and is a Godly man. Shame on those who attack the Lord’s servants. Please repent and be of one mind, striving together for the Gospel of peace!

Anonymous6 February, 2012 12:02 PM

Book of Romans Ch. 13 is a good guideline for what to do with government – obey or rail against. It’s good to listen to God. Pastor Chuck ONeal is a Godly man and fine teacher. Please repent before God’s wrath is kindled against you (Psalm 2:12) when slandering God’s people (Proverbs 6:16-19

It makes me wonder how the above commenters found the blog to begin with.  Did they hear about the comments from the pastor, or were they, too, searching the pastor’s name.  Are they part of the “inside circle”?  Keep reading.  More creepy behavior here.  I just don’t get this business about doing internet searches on pastors unless there is a problem . . . whoa  . . . that’s it . . . . unless there’s a problem.   They are trying to hide a problem.  What problem?  Hmm, perhaps the ones that I have been exposing?

In spiritually abusive churches, there is a preoccupation with the image of the leader and the church.  The leader will go to great lengths to protect his image and also those close in his inner circle will be on guard to protect that image, too.  It is likely that one of the inner circle found the Suspicious Berean link and then forwarded it to the pastor.  The people in the inner circle feed the pastor’s ego and will go to great lengths to defend and protect him.  They have a strong bond and most likely get preferential treatment or some kind of emotional reward for feeding the ego.  The pattern is they will report any kind of suspicious activity to the leader, any dissension in the group, anyone who may not be fully on board.

“I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.”

Note that it doesn’t say, I’m the good shepherd and I consume my time with my reputation, my name on the world wide web, and stalking former church members.  

I’ll mention a personal example of the workings of the inner circle.  I played the piano and sang with the praise and worship team.  We had a meeting with the elders earlier in the week and left on a positive note.  On Thursday night at practice, someone mentioned that they had heard we might be leaving.  Discussion ensued and I acknowledged we were having difficulties at the church, had been meeting with pastors/elders, but we hadn’t officially made up our minds.  There was heated discussion.  Someone urged me to have another meeting and I said I would be willing to do that (even though we had already met over 11 hours with pastor/elders).  That is how the Praise and Worship meeting ended.  However, two days later, on Saturday night, we got the call from an elder that we were not welcome to come to church there anymore.  Someone from the Praise and Worship team was most likely in that inner circle and reported our conversation to the pastor and perhaps felt that the Smith family’s presence was a threat to the pastor’s reputation and not worth the risk.  Better to have us gone than remain.

We were fine with that decision, ultimately.  I especially was thrilled as I had wanted to leave much earlier.  My husband hadn’t seen the things that I had seen, but now the answer was made for us.  I thought we were free.  We were not free, however.

I have had reports that this blog is being stalked (::::waving hi to creepy stalkers::::).   Obviously, the Google reviews were stalked as my reviews were being removed time and again.  It would be very likely that my Google reviews were discussed either on Wednesday night meetings or between Sunday school and the church service.  I remember him discussing people who challenged him on his blog. This would be normal behavior for him.

The blog is obviously stalked or else Meaghan wouldn’t be on the lawsuit.  We have many more reports of stalking behavior of which I am unable to disclose here, but let’s just say it’s all CREEPY behavior.  BTW, “Creepy” was one of the words I was being sued for – it was plastered all over the media (and it made me laugh).  It was dismissed from the lawsuit, so now I have the freedom to say it:  creepy, creepy, CREEPY.  Yes, this behavior is completely creepy.

As a musician, I feel we must break for a creepy music segue.  This music really gives me the creeps, not in in the scary sense, but the creepy sense.  See what I mean:

People say if you notice problems in a church or feel the pastor is abusive, just leave.  In our case, leaving does not make the problems go away – sometimes it makes them worse.

In our case, I believe he uses fear to threaten.  That is why we don’t see many people using their real names on my blog.  I was threatened legal action before my blog went online = control tactic.  After the blog was online, when Meaghan commented here and used her real name, she was sued = control tactic.  The threat is:  if you post any negative message on Julie Anne’s blog, you, too, will be sued = control tactic.  That’s creepy and scary and a control tactic.  Who wants to have to fork over big $$, secure a lawyer, give up hours of time, energy, defending yourself?  It’s a bit taxing on sleep, emotions as well, I might add.

There is much more creepiness going on behind the scenes, I can assure you, but this kind of stalking behavior is one aspect of spiritually abusive churches that cause a lot of pain and even fear for former members.

Great verses to meditate on when dealing with creepers:  Psalm 118

Oh let those who fear the LORD say,
“His lovingkindness is everlasting.”

From my distress I called upon the LORD;
The LORD answered me and set me in a large place.

The LORD is for me; I will not fear;
What can man do to me?

The LORD is for me among those who help me;
Therefore I will look with satisfaction on those who hate me.

It is better to take refuge in the LORD
Than to trust in man.

It is better to take refuge in the LORD
Than to trust in princes.

All nations surrounded me;
In the name of the LORD I will surely cut them off.

They surrounded me, yes, they surrounded me;
In the name of the LORD I will surely cut them off.

They surrounded me like bees;
They were extinguished as a fire of thorns;
In the name of the LORD I will surely cut them off.

You pushed me violently so that I was falling,
But the LORD helped me.

The LORD is my strength and song,
And He has become my salvation.

The sound of joyful shouting and salvation is in the tents of the righteous;
The right hand of the LORD does valiantly.

The right hand of the LORD is exalted;
The right hand of the LORD does valiantly.

I will not die, but live,
And tell of the works of the LORD.

Glad You Asked!

 Muckraker asked great questions yesterday and I’ll address them on this post.

Julie Anne: What does it mean “reviews are slowly being removed”? Who removes them?? Google? The church requests it? Or demands it with some kind of legal pressure?I thought the whole point of online reviews is that “customers” can FREELY post their OPINION of a business.

If my memory serves correctly, I am pretty sure the church’s reviews were numbered somewhere around 960.  Now they are at 933.   I assume that Google removes them.  I don’t know if the church requests it or not.  I do know that Chuck removed some of my Google reviews from a while back and he admits it here in his declaration which was submitted to the court  (public information):
JA’s side note# 1:  I would disagree that he removed only 2 or 3 – give me a break

JA’s side note #2:  he asked Google to remove “defamatory” comments which supported his claim to sue, so he basically asked Google to remove the evidence?   mmmmkay.   Excuse me for a sec:

Perhaps someone complained about the Streisand Effect that occurred, that most of those new reviews are from people who have not attended the church and only responded because of the media.  I don’t know if that is part of the Terms of Service or not (whether one must visit an establishment before reviewing), but it very well could be.  Someone told me that Yelp.com removed quite a few comments, too.  What a colossal waste of time to go one by one, removing reviews.
All I know is many of my Google reviews were removed over the 2-1/2 yrs.  I had to rewrite it from scratch and then finally got smart and saved it on my computer, anticipating their removal.    For a time, I was unable to post any Google review on the church’s review site.  That was strange.
I don’t understand how he was able to get them removed because I, too, tried to get Google to remove a few reviews which I believed to be defamatory, not only that, they were reviewing ME, not the church.   I received these generic responses from Google:

Feb 29 (2012)

Hi,

Thanks for reaching out to us!

We have received your legal request. We receive many such complaints each
day; your message is in our queue, and we’ll get to it as quickly as our
workload permits.

Due to the large volume of requests that we experience, please note that
we will only be able to provide you with a response if we determine your
request may be a valid and actionable legal complaint, and we may respond
with questions or requests for clarification.  For more information on
Google’s Terms of Service, please visit http://www.google.com/accounts/TOS

We appreciate your patience as we investigate your request.

Regards,
The Google Team

And then I finally received this response nearly 1-1/2 weeks later:

March 9, 2012
Hello,

Thanks for reaching out to us.

Based on the current information, we are not in a position to adjudicate the validity of the claims alleged by your note. If you’re concerned about the content, we suggest that you directly address your concerns with the author of the content in question.

If you choose to pursue legal action against the individual who posted this information and that action results in a judicial determination that the material is illegal or should be removed, please send us the court order so that we can take appropriate action. In cases where the author is anonymous, we can provide you with user information pursuant to a valid third party subpoena or other appropriate legal process against Google Inc.

Regards,
The Google Team

Some attorneys I spoke with said that he could have had an attorney write a letter on behalf of the Church requesting they remove reviews or face legal action.  It would probably be easier for Google to remove the reviews than face possible legal action.  Who knows!  I wonder how much it would cost to pay an attorney to write up a threatening letter?
Some people also uploaded some crazy pictures to the church’s Google review site during the media frenzy and most of those have been removed (devils, witches, and bizarre stuff).   How did they get removed?  The same process?  A photo of Josh Groban is currently posted and I really wish Josh Groban would stay out of that church for the time being.    The picture below was one that was removed and was my favorite (and the only one I saved).  Notice the names on the sign:  “TODAY’S HERETICS:  MR. AND MRS. SMITH” – lol.  I have been told that I have a warped sense of humor.
***

***

So, evidently, Muckraker, Google will yank posts if someone requests it, but I don’t know how to work that process.  I certainly wasn’t going to hire an attorney to threaten Google.  Maybe my former pastor did.  I find it interesting that Google tells me that I have to provide the court order for them to remove posts, but they didn’t require it from the pastor (because there wasn’t and isn’t a court order as of this posting).   I also still don’t understand why they allowed the reviews of ME.  Below are a couple examples that I sent to Google and show how Chuck and Stephanie were reviewing me and not using the review forum appropriately to review the establishment. 

 Stephanie said:  “Nov 18, 2009 Beware! Negative reviewer is currently under church discipline.  JulieAnne, the other reviewer is currently under church discipline.”

and

LANGDON who is likely JulieAnne, is wielding 1 Cor. 6:7-8 in order to further defame BGBC and Pastor Chuck O’Neal. It is convenient to wage a three and a half year war of reviling defamation in which you and those with you ACCUSE THE PASTOR AND CHURCH OF HORRIFIC CRIMES AGAINST GOD AND MEN, to then hide behind 1 Cor. 6:7-8.

JA’s side note #3:  Has anyone figured out what kind of horrific crimes I have committed?  (BTW, is that defamatory?)  When I think of horrific crimes, I think of murder, rape, armed something or other.  Meanwhile, I sit at home, make mac n’ cheese for the kids, do laundry, read stories, yell at kids to quit fighting over the Wii controls.  If that’s criminal activity,  all moms are busted.
Keep in mind when the above reviews were added, it also upped their rating because they were rated 5-stars.  Now, if they were rating me, Julie Anne,  as 5 stars, that’s one thing, I guess Google would need to give me a review site.   But their 5-star review of “me” bumped up the church’s positive ratings (and of course it was significant at the time there were only a few reviews on the site).
Crazy stuff, I tell you.  Well, Hannah and her boyfriend will be visiting this weekend.   I can’t wait.  It’s supposed to be 90 today and in the 80s tomorrow.  We’ll be doing some co-ed swimming at the pool and our swimsuits don’t look like this:
(http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-VLW3VYgmkg8/T5FZVY0lEZI/AAAAAAAABh0/mX3FoaP4Qm4/s320/ASmodest4piece.jpg)

Have a great weekend, everyone!  🙂