A Cry For Justice

Awakening the Evangelical Church to Domestic Violence and Abuse in its Midst

We have modified our most recent post

We have modified the post that was published within the last 24 hours.
We changed the title and edited the body text and some of the comments.

Please find the updated version here:

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Encouragement and Insights for Wives of Pastors Who are Abusers

UPDATE: Monday 1 September 10:00PM US Pacific Time

We have changed the title of this post and modified it so it is not aimed at any particular person, and we have edited out from the comments thread the names and identifying details of the particular persons which the original post named. We have taken this step after receiving feedback from a number of people. We think, on balance, that we made an error of judgement in naming people in our original post and its title. We ask that if you have shared our original post on other sites, you would kindly remove that share and, if you wish to do so, share this updated post — which we believe will be a help to many victims of abuse, particularly wives who are being abused by their pastor-husbands. We know there are many such women out there.

The administrators of this blog, Barbara Roberts and Jeff Crippen, take responsibility for this error of judgement. We would like to make it clear that Deborah is not at fault in any way for the error of judgement, and that we, as Admins, take full responsibility for what is published on this blog. Thank you to all who gave us feedback and we hope that we can continue to be transparent and open to feedback as appropriate.

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Dear Sister in Christ:

I don’t really even know where to start, except to let you know that I am praying for you and your kids.

I know how it feels to be thought of as less important, because I am a woman. I know how it feels to always have to meet a man’s needs and ignore or sideline my own needs, even to the point of condemning myself as selfish for even having needs. I know how bad it hurts to paint on a smile because I had to look perfect for everyone else.

I get the humiliation that comes with being treated like I was defective, and even sinning, if I wasn’t sexually ready when my husband was; and I know what it’s like to bite the pillow to keep from crying as he fulfilled his desires with my body, regardless of how degrading or painful it was for me. I know what it’s like to pretend I was ok with that, to keep him happy, and to keep from feeling like I was a failure, yet again.

I know the numb that came with feeling like I had to prostitute myself to my husband so he didn’t take affection away from me again. I know how it felt to be so desperate for a tiny brief bit of affection from him, that I would do whatever he wanted.

I know what it felt like to not feel emotionally safe in my own home and to never know what I had done wrong this time. I know how it felt to have it preached over and over again that I was a bad wife because I wasn’t submitting enough — when what really he meant was that I wasn’t allowing myself to be subjugated enough.

I know how it hurt to be disregarded as too emotional and feeble, simply because I was female. I know the sting that whipped my heart in having to lie to myself in order to be convinced that everything was actually ok with that. I know what it felt like to believe the lies and even to lash out at myself for ever believing he could have done anything wrong.

I know the humiliation as he made sexist remarks and jokes at the expense of my gender (often right from the pulpit), and then turned around and told me he didn’t mean it towards me. I know how it felt to be torn apart for making any decisions on my own, no matter how small. I know what it meant to live with someone who firmly believed the world of his house needed to revolve around his needs.

I know what it’s like to be emotionally abused and to feel trapped in an abusive marriage because of what I thought were the God-breathed teachings of my faith. I know that I didn’t think “this is abuse” for a long, long time. I know how hard it was for me to even tentatively apply that word “abuse” to my situation. I know how scary it felt when the balance started to tip and I began to own  — even just to myself — that “I am being abused by my husband. He is abusing me. I am a victim of abuse!”

(No. Not me! Not that! Not again!  Oh God — help me! )  

Dear Sister, I hope you don’t mind me sharing this with you. That kind of marriage, the one I used to be in, is not what God designed marriage to be like. It is a perversion of God’s design, promulgated to satiate men’s desires and subjugate women’s. In this perverse view, women aren’t allowed to have needs, unless those needs are in line with the needs of the men, or are needs that men will agree are “acceptable” for them to fulfill.

But why would a loving God design a union in which one person’s needs are always met and the other’s are only met when they are easy or convenient? Actually, such a framework does exist. It’s called ownership and slavery. But God never designed human beings to be “owned” by anyone. And although Christians belong to Christ, the way He owns us is not like a master controlling and subjugating a slave!  Christ’s leadership of his church is power under, not power over. Christ elevates his church, he does not oppress it! He put his church’s needs before his own very life! God never designed women to be trampled, abused, disregarded, diminished, overshadowed, sullied and subjugated. He never designed marriage to feel like a nightmare that won’t end.

You know what evil does? It takes a kernel of truth and then quietly and slowly wraps it in lies, skewing that truth just a little at a time, until you fully buy into the lies. The lie that women are to be treated as secondary to men and that that is what submission looks like, is evil. God has harsh things to say about those who pervert His words like that. Abuse is abuse, even when it’s sugar coated and camouflaged to look like Biblical submission.

I was in an emotionally abusive marriage, and I have learned many of the marks and signs of abusers, now that I have come out of the fog. I am wondering whether you have convinced yourself that your husband is right and you are wrong? It would be completely understandable if you have  — and it makes sense to do that, if you feel it helps you survive, and you love him. Is it possible that you have convinced yourself that women are only worthy if they do whatever their husbands tell them to do, even when it hurts them? The thing is, God doesn’t ask us to obey our husbands to the point of defiling ourselves, to the point of going against our faith or to the point of allowing the shriveling death of our own souls, for the sake of our marriage vows.

God will always put the people who make up the institution, above the institution itself. Check that in the Bible. It’s all over the place. Jesus constantly defied the institutions for the sake of the hurting people in them. Why would he not do that with marriage too?

I know this is hard to see and even harder to allow yourself to believe. It was for me too. But I know God is love and I know a loving God would never be okay with his daughters being treated the way you seem to be treated now. You have mentioned that your husband does not permit you to read emails. What else does he forbid you? How else does he isolate you? Does he do it so cleverly that you don’t even realise he is doing it? That was what my husband did to me. Could it be that the words you use to agree with your husband now, are being spoken because you feel captive to them? Are they your survival? Could it be that at this point, it may even be pain you don’t understand any more? Just a dull sense of numb and of giving in, yet it’s there.

Know this. People are praying for you. May God deliver you and your children out of oppression and may He give you the insight to see the truth and the courage to do something about it.

If you ever want support, we are here for you at A Cry For Justice. You can contact us using a pseudonym. We have many resources and links/tips on how to be safe in cyberspace and how to work, step by step, or leap by leap, towards a newer, safer, happier, non-oppressed life, one that is relatively free of the overshadowing of a controller. We know that none of this is easy. And we know that full freedom from a controlling husband is not always possible given how flawed our secular courts and justice system can be. We understand running the gauntlet of trying to disentangle one’s life and the lives of one’s children from a controlling man, but we know that one does not have to do this alone. We are here for you. Whether you stay under the shadow— or whatever you choose to do — we are here for you.

~Deborah ~  with (((hugs))) if you want them

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[Note: Deborah initiated and drafted this letter; Barbara Roberts helped polish it.]


Thoughts from Psalm 56 for this Lord’s Day

To the choirmaster: according to The Dove on Far-off Terebinths. A Miktam of David, when the Philistines seized him in Gath.

Be gracious to me, O God, for man tramples on me; all day long an attacker oppresses me; my enemies trample on me all day long, for many attack me proudly. When I am afraid, I put my trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid.

What can flesh do to me? All day long they injure my cause; all their thoughts are against me for evil. They stir up strife, they lurk; they watch my steps, as they have waited for my life. For their crime will they escape?

In wrath cast down the peoples, O God! You have kept count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your book? Then my enemies will turn back in the day when I call. This I know, that God is for me. In God, whose word I praise, in the LORD, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can man do to me? I must perform my vows to you, O God; I will render thank offerings to you. For you have delivered my soul from death, yes, my feet from falling, that I may walk before God in the light of life.
(Psalm 56:1-13)

If you are a Christian, that is to say, if you know Jesus Christ by being born again through faith in the gospel of Christ, then know this: God is for you. Though every evil human being on this planet be against you, God Almighty is for you. This means that He sees it all. He hears your every cry to Him. He knows every detail of the wicked enemy who works to destroy you.

And He is keeping track of it. Every detail. Every syllable. Every lying glance and every conspiring thought. He has, as the Psalmist says, kept count of your tossings and put your tears in a bottle.

In this present day, there are many, many abuse victims whom we just cannot help. I mean, we cannot go get them, whisk them away, set them up in a new house and provide for them in a safe, guarded place. We all wish we could. But we cannot. Sometimes perhaps, but most of the time, no. Some will get completely free. Some will escape but still have to be taunted by the wicked one. And some never escape. Some, as grievous as it is to say it, perish. They are killed.

But this is not the end. Oh no. God still has the evidence in His heavenly chamber. He has the records. And on that Great Day to come, He will bring it all out. Perfect, eternal justice will be effected then. What can man do to me? Kill my body, but that’s about it. Torment me for some years, but not forever. That Day is rushing at us at terrific speed. Christ is going to be revealed, and then the play days of the wicked will be over forever.

Victims and survivors – be encouraged. What can man do to you? Abusers, tremble, because you are going to find out what God can do to you.

Teaching Children The Ten Commandments Of Character

God has really been working on me lately, showing me that I need to step up and be more intentional with countering the abuse in my kid’s lives. I have been reading through tons of books on abuse, trying to glean what I can from them, to help guide my children through the gauntlet of confusion my ex creates and to better understand my ex and thereby know better how to counter his manipulations. I am working on the premise that I have to teach my kids to think critically and see abuse for what it is. If I want them to be able to do that, then I have to learn how to do that first.

I am learning that part of stopping the poison of abuse is doing everything I can to bring them up to identify it and then reject it in their own lives. To that end, I read … and I read … and I read. Lately, I have been reading Character Disturbance by George Simon Jr [Amazon Affiliate link]. About midway through the book, he presents his Ten Commandments Of Character. My pen bled all over those pages and as I sat back and let it all sink in, I thought maybe I could distill that information down into terms my kids can understand, and then use it to teach them the principles of good character. In the process of doing that, I thought maybe it would be a good idea to share with other mommas who may need this for their kids too.

We are the ones who need to teach our kids and help them develop the skills they need, to not only fight the impacts of abuse on their lives, but also develop the character traits they need to stop the cycle of abuse and refuse to become abusers themselves.

Here is what I came up with, paraphrasing Simon’s Commandments in simpler, shorter language, to make it easier for children of various ages to understand. It is my hope that it will help but I would also encourage you to read the book, as it goes into much better detail than I can here:

The 10 Commandments Of Character

1)   You are not the center of the Universe. It’s not all about you. Think carefully about how you act will affect the people around you. You live in this world with many other people and they all have needs and feelings, just like you. Be careful about what you do, because your actions can either hurt or help other people.

2)   Remember, you don’t deserve things just because you think you should have them. That’s called entitlement. But God gave you your life as a gift. You didn’t earn it. Try to be thankful and grateful for the gifts you have received from God, instead of feeling like you deserve more. Respect the people around you and treat them better than you would treat yourself. Go out of your way to help them and give to them, instead of just taking for yourself.

3)   You are important to God but you are also not the most important person in the world. It’s just as important to see that you aren’t better than other people, as it is to know that you also do have value. Your talents and abilities are given to you by God. They aren’t from you. You should be thankful to God for them and give Him the credit for them. Your merit is in what you do with what God has given you. That’s what matters. God gave you your gifts. You need to make an effort to use them to honor Him and help others.

4)   Truth is very important because lies hurt other people and hurting people is against God’s laws! Don’t tell lies, cheat or manipulate to get what you want. Be truthful when you have made a mistake and take responsibility for it. Don’t take short cuts by lying, cheating or stealing to get what you want. Always be honest.

5)   Sometimes you have to go through hard times to grow and to love better. God wants you to live and be happy, but you were never meant to have everything you want, whenever you want it and expect other people to just give it to you. If you just try to always get what you want, you will hurt other people while you are trying to get it, and that isn’t right. You need to make the choice to love other people and to want to help them more than you want to get what you want.

6)   Think before you act. Think about what you are about to do, and then think about the consequences of doing that. Just because you want to do something, doesn’t make it good for you to do and it’s important to decide before you do it, whether it is a good thing to do or not.

7)   You need to grow strong in love, and in understanding of what is right, so you can be ready to make the right choices, even when it’s hard to do that. That’s part of it. The other part is actually making the choice to do what you know is right and to do what you know will help others.

8)   Being mad is not bad in itself. It’s ok to be angry, but it’s not ok to hurt other people because you are angry. Sometimes you will have to fight for what is right, but you need to do it in a fair way. Don’t try to just win or hurt someone so you can get ahead of them. Always respect other people’s needs and rights, even when you are angry and have to stand up to them because of what they have done.

9)   Treat others as you would want them to treat you. Even when people don’t act nice, you need to treat them decently. You don’t have to agree with what they are doing, but you do need to behave well yourself.

10)  Don’t pretend you are doing something to be nice, if you are really doing it just to get what you want. Tell the truth about why you are doing something. Try to do things because it is the right to do them, not because you want something out of it. Don’t pretend to be someone you aren’t. This is called being Sincere.

I don’t exactly know how to begin this process yet. Right now my goal is just to work on one of these at a time in my kids lives and just work on them as long as it takes to help them understand. Ultimately, the choice is theirs, but I have to try. All I know is that for my kid’s sake, I have to try. I have to try and then leave them in God’s hands.


Thursday Thought — My abuser is not as bad as others are, so is it really abuse?


My husband is abusive, but he isn’t nearly as bad as what some others have experienced. For example, he has never hit me.  So, would he still be considered an abuser?


All abusers are characterized by certain fundamental attitudes which are the elemental building blocks of what we define as abuse.  Without these, a person is not an abuser as we have defined the term:  entitlement/superiority, power, control, and justification.

. . . We must also emphasize that not all abusers operate at the same level of intensity. Abuse functions along a scale or range (“spectrum,” as Bancroft labels it), from lesser to greater.  This is vital for us to understand [because] it will enable us to recognize abuse for what it really is, even in what appears to be the “less serious” cases.  We need not find the most severe abusive tactics before we can conclude that a man is an abuser.  (While some abusers physically beat their victim, others are passive abusers — refusing to work or take responsibility for example).

Jesus said that the man who actually commits murder and the man who hates someone in his heart are both murderers (Matthew 5:21-22).  While we would all rather be murdered by the second man than the first, the reality is that the essential heart of murder is present in both men.  And so it is with abuse.

(From Ps Jeff Crippen’s book, A Cry for Justice [*affiliate link] pp.93-94)


*Amazon affiliate link — ACFJ gets a small percentage if you purchase via this link

Translating Mark Driscoll

Today’s post is a brilliant decoding of ‘abuserese’ — the manipulative language that abusers use to evade responsibility for their behavior and to shape other people’s perceptions of them. We have re-blogged this post from God Loves Women (original here). The author of the post leads behavior change groups for men who abuse their partners. Many thanks to God Loves Women.

If you haven’t yet heard about Mark Driscoll’s announcement that he is stepping down for six weeks while charges are being investigated, you can find more about it from Julie Anne Smith’s post Mark Driscoll Stepping Down for 6 Weeks While Charges Investigated at Spiritual Sounding Board.

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This morning I watched the 17 minute videoed announcement from Mark Driscoll this weekend that he is stepping down as Pastor of Mars Hill for a minimum of six weeks. You can watch the video and read the transcript here.
[Note from ACFJ eds: Trigger Warning —  the link contains a video showing manipulative body language and speech that may remind you of your own abuser(s)]

Within the announcement Mark speaks of the “court of public opinion” not being useful in addressing issues in a Biblical manner and suggests online conversations, like this blog for instance, are unhelpful. I can see that everyone having OPINIONS can be problematic, but without the courageous tenacity of bloggers across the internet raising the issues, Mark Driscoll would not have taken the very necessary and welcome step that he has. So I’m not going to apologise for adding to the OPINIONS in the public space and I would suggest his denigration of the “court of public opinion” is a tactic to silence the hurting, and as a book we Christians honour states, “For all that is secret will eventually be brought into the open, and everything that is concealed will be brought to light and made known to all.”

I have recently begun working with perpetrators of domestic abuse. I am facilitating a Respect accredited programme with men who have chosen to be violent and abusive to their partners. And if there is one thing that perpetrators are “gifted” in, it is avoiding responsibility and manipulating people’s views of them. I would suggest that some of what we see in Mark’s announcement uses those same tactics, whether intentionally or not, whether orchestrated by a PR plan or by the man himself. I would like to clarify that I am not suggesting Mark is perpetrator of domestic abuse, but that his words and actions mirror those of abusers.

During the announcement Mark was emotional, at points he seemed very close to tears. It is interesting to note that domestic abuse perpetrators who visibly show remorse change at about the same rate as those who don’t. In our wider context of power based masculinity, men crying, or being close to tears brings out a specific response for many. That act of vulnerability in a society that states the only appropriate emotions for men are humour and anger can change perceptions of an offender in an instant. I’m not for one minute suggesting they were “crocodile tears” but that we must be careful not to use an emotionally remorseful delivery as a litmus test for repentance.

This is my translation of some parts of the announcement:

“When a small group of us started what would become Mars Hill Church in 1996, we could not have dreamed it would be what it is today. Thousands upon thousands of people have become Christians as the gospel of Jesus Christ has proven powerful over and over. Every day, it seems, I hear of someone whose life has been transformed by the power of the Word of God taught in this place and modeled by so many who call this their church home.”

I’m going to start by reminding you of all the 1000s of people my ministry has saved from hell, so that when I get to my bad choices, we’re all feeling that is insignificant compared to all the people I have helped. So many people’s lives have been transformed by my teaching of God’s Word and you all living out my teaching.

“Today, we are blessed with lead pastors who love Jesus and the people He gave His life for. These men faithfully serve the Mars Hill family.”

Though there are 21 ex-leaders of the our church who are publicly stating that I have behaved in horrendous ways and were either sacked or left due to their strong convictions, the current leaders are supportive of me.

“While I’m still young, I suspect when I’m old I’ll be known for many things—some good, and some not so good.”

I am a 43 year old grown up, but I am going to describe myself as “young” in order to suggest that my young-ness mitigates the bad choices I have made. I would also like to remind you that I have done good things and not actually say that I have done bad things, but just things that are “not so good”.

“I may be an author, a speaker, and a thought-provoker; but in the deepest recesses of my heart, I’m a local church pastor, and that’s what I want to give the rest of my life for.”

I would like to remind you all of the powerful man I am and the many successes I have had in my career so far, but that I also want you to know that I am humble local church pastor, even though I have intentionally and ruthlessly built a large megachurch over the last 18 or so years.”

“It is because of my deep love for the local church in general, and Mars Hill Church in particular, that it grieves me to see anything come against it or threaten to harm it. It also grieves me greatly when something I say or do results in controversy and publicity none of you signed up for when you decided to be a part of this church family.”

I get upset when my choices, actions and words result in people challenging me. I am so totally uninterested in the people I have hurt that I’m not even going to mention their hurt in my announcement. I don’t want to accept the consequences of my actions as the leader of a large church which I am paid large amounts of money to lead and rather than say this, I am going to make it about the peripheral hurt of the church family, which I am actually responsible for not those who have challenged me.

“Over the years, as I have grown and as the Lord has been molding and pruning me, I have, on many occasions, shared with you some of the lessons I’ve been learning. Some of these have been painful, and some I’ve been slow to learn. I’ve acknowledged and confessed many of my sins, shortcomings and missteps, and God has been more than faithful with His forgiveness. Most of our Mars Hill family has been forgiving as well, and for that I’m grateful and blessed. By God’s grace, I want to always be humble and teachable.”

I would like to remind you all of the times I have said sorry for what I did over the years. The fact that at no point have I actually changed my behaviour is something I’m going to try and ensure you don’t think about by making it all about the ways I’ve learned. I’d like to also remind you that before God I am forgiven. Rather than mention how much I appreciate and value all those who have tried to stop it coming to this point, I’m going to validate all those who collude with my behaviours by honouring those who keep forgiving me. Although I have proven that over the last 18 years of ministry that I am not willing to be taught and am not humble, I am going to say that I am both of those things.

“A central theme in my personal walk with Jesus in recent times has been to follow the Apostle Paul’s charge to Believers in Romans 12:8: If possible, so far is it depends on you, live peaceably with all men. God is not honored by conflict, strife, disunity, arguing, slander, gossip or anything else not consistent with the fruit of the Spirit, and I am deeply sorry for the times I have not done my part to living peaceably with all men.”

By quoting Scripture I can reduce my ongoing hurtful behaviour to the term “not living peaceably with all men”. I am going to use the term “my part” so as to suggest that it is not all my fault, but that it is a reciprocal thing where both I and every other person involved are partly to blame for the hurt I have caused.

“I want to thank those who have come directly to an Elder, lead pastor or me to tell us of an offense they are carrying. This allows us to deal with it head-on between the two affected parties, rather than in a court of public opinion and public media. I believe God is honored by this approach—the approach He prescribed for us in Matthew 18 and other Scriptures.”

All those who have used public spaces to challenge me are wrong and dishonour God and only those who have come to me and the leadership of the church are right and honour God. I am going to use the term “offense they are carrying” so as to avoid saying that I had hurt people. The fact that when people tried to come to me I refused to listen, sacking them, threatening them and destroying their lives and livelihoods is of absolutely no relevance. God is not honoured by anyone who publicly holds me to account. I am going to mention the first bit of Matthew 18 where Jesus tells us to approach other Christians who we have been hurt by, but I am going to conveniently ignore the bit Jesus says that’s someone who fails to listen should be treated like a non-believer.

“Others have chosen to air their grievances with me or this church in a more public forum. As is often the case, some of what is said it true, some is partly true, and some is completely untrue. Lately, the number of accusations, combined with their public nature, makes it much more difficult to know how to respond appropriately. Indeed, many times we have chosen not to respond at all, which probably raises even more questions in some people’s minds, and I understand that.”

I am going to use the term “air their grievances” rather than talk about people being hurt. I am going to talk about truth, half-truths and lies without distinguishing between them so that I subtly cast aspersions on all that everyone has accused me of. I am going to talk about “the number of accusations” increasing which makes the issues external to me, rather than about my own choices and hurtful actions. I am going to reinforce my criticism of people holding me to account publicly, but will use it neutral language like “public nature” to hide that. I am going to mention that we haven’t addressed the issues, acknowledge that is problematic but continue doing it.

“In other cases, some have publicly brought up issues that were long ago addressed and resolved, adding to the understandable confusion many of you may be experiencing recently. For example, nearly 15 years ago I wrote some things on a Mars Hill discussion board on our website using a pseudonym. I quickly realized what I wrote and how I did it was wrong. We removed the entire section of the website a few months later and I addressed it publicly in a book I wrote six years later—calling it what it was: wrong.”

The only accusation I am going to address during my announcement is the one that relates to historical actions. I am going to manipulate the facts to suggest that a book I wrote six years later dealt with what I had done, when in actual fact, that book mentioned that I thought it was funny how I had a man turn up at my house to challenge me; that I talk of things “going crazy”. I’m not going to mention that at no point in the book do I actually own or apologise for my misogynistic, homophobic behaviours and attitudes. I am also not going to mention that for the past almost 15 years I have continued to use similar language and ideology in my preaching and writing. I am going to use language that distances me from my actions by saying “what I wrote and how I did it was wrong” rather than saying “I was wrong and I have hurt people”.

“I have taken full responsibility for those actions and will forever be ashamed by what I did, even as a 29 year-old preacher. What I did in this case back in 2000 is indefensible. It is also forgiven; and thank God, I’m not the man I was back then. I have learned hard lessons from this situation, as I have from other situations where I have done wrong things and God has had to deal with me.”

I am going to talk of taking full responsibility for something while still using language that distances me from my choices and actions. When talking about what I did I will mention the age I was in order to justify it as related to being young (like I did earlier in my announcement). Although at 29 years old I had been an adult for over ten years, I will suggest my age made me immature, though I was a married father entrusted with the leadership of a church. I will remind everyone that this happened in 2000, keeping people focused on the historical accusations and not the current ones. I will talk about learning hard lessons which will allow me to suggest I have changed, when the way I have behaved and the choices I have made since then have continued to hurt many people.

“Storm clouds seem to be whirling around me more than ever in recent months and I have given much thought and sought much counsel as to why that is and what to do about it. The current climate is not healthy for me or for this church. (In fact, it would not be healthy for any church.)”

I will again talk about the consequences of my actions using language which distances me from any responsibility by talking of what “storm clouds seems to be” doing. I will talk of how unhealthy this would be and subtly place myself as a victim. I will then restart talking of Mars Hill Church as the main victim of the issues, keeping my audience feeling like they are the centre of this and their interests and hurts are cared about while continuing to completely ignore the hurt and pain of the people I have hurt throughout my ministry.

“Some have challenged various aspects of my personality and leadership style, and while some of these challenges seem unfair, I have no problem admitting I am deserving of some of these criticisms based on my own past actions that I am sorry for. In recent years, I have sought to apologize to people I have knowingly offended in any way. I’m grateful that God has honored many of these encounters and granted true reconciliation and restoration.”

I will start addressing criticisms by saying that some have been unfair. I will not use language which states that my critics are right, but will instead say “I am deserving of” some criticisms. This sounds like I’m taking responsibility, but subtly avoids doing so. I will use the term “past actions” to suggest that this isn’t related to my ongoing behaviour, thereby subtly connecting it to my previous comments on my actions in 2000. I talk of seeking to apologise to people even though those who have been hurt report being shunned and destroyed by me. I will talk about God honouring these encounters without specifics

“But I’m particularly sorry that any of my past actions or decisions have brought distraction to the mission of Mars Hill Church, and therefore, to those who call this their church home. Part of this is no doubt a function of the media age we live in—anyone can write anything, anywhere, anytime. As a public figure, I recognize and accept this, even if I don’t like it; for this is one of the paradoxes of being a pastor in a media age—the same media channels that can be used to carry a sermon to virtually anyone around the globe can also be used by anyone around the globe to criticize, attack or slander.”

The first time that I start a sentence with “I am sorry” it is related to the impact on the church community which yet again reinforces to the audience that their feelings are validated, but the actual victims of my offences are not mentioned. I make my sorry focused on the mission of Mars Hill, reminding everyone that is the priority, not the reality of the people who have been hurt. I will then yet again criticise people who have publicly challenged me and place myself as the victim by talking of myself as a “public figure”. This makes the situation more about my position than my choices and actions. That I have used media channels to criticise and attack is irrelevant, and I will suggest my detractors are “criticizing, attacking and slandering” without actually stating that is what those who challenge me are doing.

“However, another part of it is simply my fault and I will own it, confess it and move on from it as God continues to redeem me. I will seek to resolve unresolved issues with others, and will seek to avoid such conflict in the future; at least to the extent I have any control over it.”

After spending time being negative about my detractors I will now talk about my fault. Yet I won’t take responsibility for any of it, I will just accept partial fault, which essentially means the other people involved are also at fault. Essentially I am blaming everyone else while using the language of responsibility. I will talk of God redeeming me to remind everyone that God is okay with me, having previously implied that others have dishonoured God by challenging me. I will use the term “avoid such conflict” which essentially distances me from fault and focuses the issues as conflict based rather than founded in power and abuse.

“There is a well-documented list of past actions and decisions I have admitted were wrong, sought forgiveness, and apologized for to those I hurt or offended. I will not review them here, as it is my prayer we can, together as a church, move on as Paul writes in Philippians 3:13—But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind, and straining forward to what lies ahead.”

I will talk about admitting I am wrong when what I have done previously is apologise but continue to do the same things over and over. I quote Philippians and use the word “forget”; this implies that forgetting is the option for the church community. That forgiveness and forgetting are not in any way related and that forgetting is impossible when we have been hurt badly is something I want to avoid people being aware of.

“These are serious times we are living in and people all around us are dying every hour without Jesus. It is this reality that drives me and motivates me to keep learning God’s Word, and teaching God’s Word to His people so that together, we can continue to reach people with the saving grace and love and mercy of Jesus. I hope that regardless of whatever else is swirling around us, we never lose this perspective on why Mars Hill exists in the first place – Jesus loves people and people need Jesus.”

I will now spend time explaining how people’s souls are at risk of burning in hell and that in comparison these issues that have been raised are really not a big deal. I will talk about my purpose and call and will talk of the current issues that have resulted from my actions and choices as “swirling around us” yet again distancing myself from being the instigator of the issues.

“I realize the vast majority of you just want to come to church and hear God’s Word taught. You want to feed your families spiritually just as you feed them physically, and Mars Hill should be a safe place to do just that. As your pastor, I want that for you more than anything. All of our lead pastors want that for those under their care as well.”

I will keep the audience supportive of me by yet again talking about them as the primary victims in the situation. I will talk about the consequences of my choices and actions in a way that acknowledges the struggles of people are going through without taking responsibility for them.

“I have submitted to the process prescribed by our church Bylaws as overwhelmingly approved by our entire Eldership for addressing accusations against me. I invite this process, rather than debating accusations and issues in social media or the court of public opinion. A report on this process will be presented when it has been completed.”

I will not mention that one of the accusations against me relate to changing the bylaws of the church to make it very difficult for the church to hold me to account. I will talk of inviting the process even though it has taken enormous public pressure to essentially force me to take action. Book shops are withdrawing my books from sale, I am being removed from church networks and others and although there have been issues throughout my entire ministry, I have shut down all criticism to the point of changing church bylaws and sacking employees, yet I will state that this is a process that I have invited. I will again reinforce that challenging me publicly is wrong. I mention that a report will be presented, but I haven’t mentioned who that report will be presented to, and I have called it a “report on the process” not implying whether the outcomes will be made public.

As a general rule, I will respond to little if any criticism of me in the media, on social media, blogs, open letters, etc. Conducting church business and biblical conflict resolution through media channels is not healthy and is more likely to prove unproductive at best, and destructive and dishonoring to the Lord at worst.

I will now categorically state that media channels are unproductive, destructive and dishonouring to God. That without these media channels I would be able to continue behaving in hurtful and damaging ways without any accountability or negative consequences. This places anyone who comments publicly about what I have said as unproductive, destructive and dishonouring God. The hurt I have caused people should be compounded further by me attempting to silence and denigrate their attempts to heal.

“I have asked our Board of Advisors and Accountability to strengthen our board by adding members to it, and they are in the process of doing so with local members being our first choice.”

We will strengthen the board of advisors and accountability by inviting people who are still in the church and have stood by me throughout all that I have done. Anyone who has had the courage to challenge me has talked of how they were sacked or abused by me. By saying this I yet again focus on my audience, enabling them to feel they are being given power to change things and trusted with that.

“I have agreed to postpone the publication of my next book until a future season, to be determined.”

Bookshops have removed my books from sale and due to the current climate I would probably not sell many books if I did publish my book, plus I am no longer able to pay a PR company to unethically get my books onto bestseller lists.

“I have begun meeting with a professional team of mature Christians who provide wise counsel to help further my personal development and maturity before God and men. I have never taken an extended focused break like this in my 18 years as your pastor, and it is not a vacation but rather a time to focus on deep work in my soul in the areas of processing, healing, and growing.”

I will talk of meeting with a professional team of mature Christians but will not mention any of their names. The fact I haven’t taken an extended break in 18 years will be used as an opportunity to be applauded for my commitment rather than concern that I have not had a healthy work life balance.

“As I look forward to the future—and I do look forward to it—I believe the Lord has shown me I am to do two things with the rest of my life: love my family, and teach the Bible. I deeply love my family and our church family and am seeking the Lord for how to have a godly and loving future that is not just sustainable but fruitful.”

I will now talk about my family which reminds everyone I am a human being with good priorities. I will establish that I plan to continue teaching the Bible for the rest of my life which suggests I will continue be seeking to influence and lead people.

“Finally, I want to say to our Mars Hill family—past and present, I’m very sorry. I’m sorry for the times I have been angry, short, or insensitive. I’m sorry for anything I’ve done to distract from our mission by inviting criticism, controversy or negative media attention.”

Having spent over 15 minutes talking I will finally say that I am sorry, not to those I have direct hurt, but to my church family. I talk about inviting criticism rather than behaving abusively and focus on the actions of the commentators rather than my own actions.

“God has broken me many times in recent years by showing me where I have fallen short, and while my journey, at age 43, is far from over, I believe He has brought me a long way from some days I am not very proud of, and is making me more like Him every day. The gospel is powerfully at work in me, your pastor, thanks to the faithfulness of our Senior Pastor Jesus Christ, and the best thing for us each to do is look to Him and point others to Him. Thank you Mars Hill. I love you.”

I talk of “falling short” and doing things “I am not very proud of” yet still do not quantify that in terms of identifying what I have actually done. I make this last section about what God is doing in me and still do not mention anything about the people I have damaged who are no longer in Mars Hill church. After this I am given a standing ovation by the church and my wife and children all come onto the platform to embrace me. This reminds the audience that there are children involved in any decisions made about me. The image of them embracing me will be used on the Mars Hill website alongside my statement.


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