Domestic Violence: A Call to the Church – Re-evaluate Your Beliefs

Domestic Violence, Church Response, Beliefs

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-by Kathi


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

 

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

Suffering

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

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

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

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

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

Marriage

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

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

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

Confession and Forgiveness

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

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

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

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

Role of Secular Resources

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Domestic Violence: Education is the Key to Better Church Response

Domestic Violence, Church Response, Education

purple ribbons

-by Kathi


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

60% would investigate whether domestic violence is really present.

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is what the church needs to know:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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After The Gospel Coalition Staunchly Defended CJ Mahaney in Sovereign Grace Ministries Sex Abuse Scandal, They Now Promote the Movie Spotlight (Sex Abuse Coverup)

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Kevin DeYoung Pushes Church Memberships and Making Vows

Church Membership, Pastor Kevin DeYoung, Making Vows, The Gospel Coalition, here we go again!

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Whose Rights are Protected in The Gospel Coalition’s Article on Churches and Current Legal Culture?

 Church Membership is being pushed in The Gospel Coalition’s recent article. Whose rights are protected?


Christina Holcomb, litigation counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom, wrote an article for The Gospel Coalition (TGC), 5 Actions Churches Should Take in a Changing Legal Culture, which was published today.

I can’t help but perk up and take notice when I read about churches and legal counsel after having been sued by my former pastor, Chuck O’Neal, and the church, Beaverton Grace Bible Church. Please note that both my former pastor and the church were plaintiffs named in the lawsuit. Here are a couple of screenshots from this lovely document that altered the course of my life:

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Back page:

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Ms. Holcomb summarizes the new threats she sees in our current culture as it relates to religious rights and freedoms:

These new political, cultural, and legal realities directly affect the church’s freedom to live out its faith. While most church decisions about internal governance or doctrine currently enjoy constitutional protection, churches cannot assume that these protections will stand indefinitely. Maintaining a gospel-centered witness in today’s culture requires not only standing firm on the truths of Scripture, but also taking affirmative steps to protect the church’s freedom to continue peacefully teach and live out its faith.

She gave a brief paragraph for the following points:

1. Adopt a written statement of faith about marriage.

2. Establish religious employment criteria.

3. Create a facility use policy.

4. Establish a written marriage policy.

It is the last point, “Adopt a written membership policy,” where I would like to focus.  Here is what she wrote:

5. Adopt a written membership policy.

Only those persons who “unite” with the church have consented to the church’s authority over them. As a result, churches with formal members have greater legal protection when it becomes necessary to exercise church discipline. Churches are encouraged to adopt a written membership policy that explains the procedure for becoming a church member, procedures for member discipline, and procedures for rescinding church membership.

Of course, this recommendation does not mean that a church should adopt a form of church government to which it does not subscribe. Churches can still have designated members who affirm they are committed to and part of a church body, even if there is no voting or say in church practices.

Okie-dokie, I have a couple of thoughts:

Notice in the first sentence:  Only those persons who “unite” with the church have consented to the church’s authority over them

When you become a member, you are agreeing/consenting to the church’s authority over you.

Ok, now take a look at the second sentence:  As a result, churches with formal members have greater legal protection when it becomes necessary to exercise church discipline.

Look again closely. Who has the protection?  The member or the church?

Also please note that she’s encouraging all churches to adopt a written membership policy. 


Christiana Holcomb lays it out for us pretty clearly. She says the church must protect themselves first.

But when abusive church leadership has the law on their side and they don’t agree with you, a covenant-signed church member, you could be hosed.


I was sued without being a church member (despite the fabrications you read elsewhere by Chuck O’Neal). We never signed any documentation, never went before the church body to say we were formally agreeing to be members. I have a copy of the bylaws and know what membership entails and we were not official members, but my daughter and I were still sued.

Imagine, however, being in an abusive church in which your church membership is hung over your head and you are reminded that you signed the dotted line. You may have forfeited some of your legal rights. Please think very carefully about church membership. It is not a biblical mandate. It is a modern cultural trend.

Edited to add:  It looks like Dee at The Wartburg Watch blog also had a strong reaction to this article and wrote a blog post. There are some real practical helps here: http://thewartburgwatch.com/2015/04/09/further-proof-you-are-signing-a-legal-contract-not-a-membership-covenant-courtesy-of-the-gospel-coalition/

Some Christian Leaders are Hijacking the Ebola Crisis to Promote their Theology or Agenda

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Christian Leaders Respond to the Ebola Crisis promoting their agendas or theologies. Others respond in humility with real help to those in need.

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An Open Letter to Tullian Tchividjian, Including a Personal Note from a Sex Abuse Survivor

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An Open Letter to Tullian Tchividjian, Including a Personal Note from a Sex Abuse Survivor

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Why The Gospel Coalition – or at least Al Mohler and Company – Must Apologize

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Taylor Joy Responds to the recent developments at The Gospel Coalition involving Joe Carter, Tullian Tchividjian, C.J. Mahaney

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The Gospel Coalition Shake-Up – Tullian Tchividjian and Too Much Grace for The Gospel Coalition?

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Tullian Tchividjian is booted from The Gospel Coalition (TGC) website while C.J. Mahaney and Josh Harris quietly leave TGC council amidst ongoing sex abuse lawsuits in which a former Sovereign Grace Ministries volunteer is found guilty of sex abuse charges.

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The Gospel Coalition’s Joe Carter, Publicly Attacks Sarah Palin for her Use of the Word, “Baptism”

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Joe Carter of The Gospel Coalition publicly attacks Sarah Palin for her use of the word “baptism” in the context of a NRA political rally.

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Learn to Discern: Wife Has Affair with Pastor . . . and Reconciles?

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Kandace has an affair with her pastor.  She and her husband, Nathan, talk about their reconciliation process and grace, but leave out something very important.

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Video:  Liberate

JA note:  Sorry, I’ve been unable to embed the video.  Please click on “Liberate” to see the video.

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I was glad to stumble across this video.  In this video, a husband and wife, Nathan and Kandace, talk about how their marriage is recovering after the wife’s affair with their pastor.

We hear a lot about grace, which is very common.  But there’s something very important missing from this testimony that concerns me.

What important piece is missing?

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As the Sovereign Grace Ministries World Turns

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Earlier this week, I mentioned  a conversation I had at SharperIron.org regarding Albert Mohler and an article he wrote.  The conversation diverted to C.J. Mahaney and his connection with Mark Dever (founder of 9Marks).

Here is my comment challenging Dever’s involvement with Mahaney when Mahaney took his leave of absence from his church, Covenant Life Church.  And yea, I think I was a little miffed. I copied it directly, typos and all (sorry!):

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Learn to Discern: A Pastor’s Response to a Young Man’s Question about His Sexual Past

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Pastor Bob Grenier of Calvary Chapel to File Defamation Lawsuit Against Son and Blogger?One of the primary purposes of this blog is to discuss spiritual abuse and to learn and be aware of patterns that can lead to abuse. Some people who stop by here are at various stages of discovery and recovery.  I recently read this article from the Gospel Coalition website:  You Asked: Am I Disqualified from Ministry?    If I had read this article just after leaving our spiritually abusive church experience, I probably would not have had any problems with what I had read in the article.  However, yesterday, when reading it, a warning flag went off.

 

It’s not a long article and because of that, I’m only going to post one excerpt.

The article is in a question/answer format and a question came in from a 23-yr-old young man who had dealt with sexual immorality in his past.   At the time, he was a worship leader and became convicted by his sin of sexual immorality and so he confessed it to older men from his church.  After confessing his sin to the older men, he  was removed from his music ministry position in order to deal with the sin.  A couple of years later, he’s still concerned about that old sin and asks:

My question comes still, am I disqualified from ministry? I wasn’t married during that time, but I fear sometimes I’ve just sinned too much to be used in formal church ministry. I was sinning as a leader in a ministry. I’m not doubting my salvation, just haunted sometimes about if I’ll ever be able to be used by God or not.

A pastor was asked to respond to the question.  I liked a lot of the pastor’s response, but am deliberately not naming the pastor in this article because I don’t want this to be about him personally (or for search engines to find this article).   But one part of the pastor’s response left me feeling uneasy.

Can you find what set me off?  Click here.     As of this posting, there are 16 comments and none of them have addressed my issue of concern, but I don’t want to give it away yet.   Maybe you can find something else that I didn’t find.    Discussing this can be a great way to learn from each other.  So, before you get tempted to read comments here (trusting there will be some eventually – lol), go ahead and see for yourself and then let’s talk!

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*Putting some blank space in here so if comments come in, they won’t be seen as easily and give away any responses 🙂

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TGC & T4G: It’s Not about the Nail, it’s about the SGM Survivors!

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Have you seen this video?   I liked it enough that I posted it on my blog’s Facebook page.  The person who recommended it, Denny Burk, is one who has publicly given his support to C.J. Mahaney.  Just a bit ago, a reader sent me a link to Kevin DeYoung’s blog which features the same video.  DeYoung also issued a public statement of support for C.J. Mahaney.   Hmmmm

When I originally saw the video, I was focusing on the typical husband/wife relationship in which the wife complains of a problem and the husband tries to “fix” it.  It’s a great video to illustrate this common communication challenge in marital relationships.

But let’s take it a step further.  I watched the video again in light of the fact that this video is being spread among The Gospel Coalition folks and this time it struck me differently, as it did reader who sent me the link.  When watching it, think of the SGM story.  Think of the SGM Survivors who have been saying time and again, “Yo, there’s a problem here!!!”

What was the response from SGM church leaders when confronted with issues of abuse in their churches?  It was their sin problem.  Oh no, not the leaders’s sin, but the sin of ones trying to say there is a problem.  The victims have the problem of sin because there is no problem at SGM.  Aren’t  TGC and T4G folks essentially doing the same thing with regard to their support of C.J. Mahaney?  Aren’t they saying, “there’s no problem?”  And instead they blame divisive people, women bloggers, etc.

Sharing this particular video within the ranks of TGC gives one the impression that these guys are all about having good communication in marriages.  By sharing it, they seem to be publicly saying they really want to be good husbands by being sensitive and sympathetic with their wives.  That’s fine and dandy.  While it’s nice that the people sharing it are acknowledging a common communication problem within marriages, it’s too bad the ones who are spreading it are unable to see that it’s not about the nail with the SGM survivors.

Discernment: You, Some Woman, or Phil Johnson?

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I remember my mother’s prayers and they have always followed me.

They have clung to me all my life. Abraham Lincoln

Today I read a comment on a blog that absolutely floored me. Early on in my lawsuit case, I contacted a couple of pastors from a well-known church. As I tried to share my story of spiritual abuse, I felt I was treated like a less-than. I knew that if I had male anatomy, I would not have been treated in such a fashion. I also saw this same treatment at my former church. I remember my pastor rebuking a husband to get his wife under control. I was still drinking the Kool-Aid then. I’m not anymore.

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