Women who were married to abusive priests and pastors are for the first time revealing their experiences of sexual assault, control and fear. They say the church has known for decades that some clergy abuse their wives but has done very little to fix the ongoing problem.
This article was published yesterday at ABCnews in Australia. For copyright reasons we can’t reblog it here but we urge all our readers to read it by clicking the link.
The article mentions A Cry For Justice. I (Barb) was involved in helping disidentify the women’s stories. There are eight women’s stories embedded in the article. To find them, scroll down the ABC article till you see these four pictures, then click on the drop down arrow under each picture.
Time to Listen was an evening event held in North Sydney on Sept 6, 2017. Videos of it are now available. Hooray!
Part 1 – Julia Baird, ABC journalist, and Graeme Anderson, Senior Ps of Northside Baptist Church, Crows Nest NSW, talk about the public attention given to domestic abuse in the church in the last few years in Australia.
Part 2 – Julia Baird leads a panel discussion of what is being done and what people can do next. Panel: Erica Hamence, Bruce Chan, Michael Jensen and Liz Mackinlay.
Eternity News did a writeup of the Time To Listen event: Churches ‘should unite’ to fight domestic abuse. The rest of this post is excerpts from the Eternity article, with links added by me. (However, I encourage you to also read the whole Eternity article.)
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Domestic violence specialist with BaptistCare, Bruce Chan, has called on churches to band together to fight the scourge of domestic and family violence.
Chan [said] the Baptist church in NSW was developing a pilot programme on domestic violence, More than Skin Deep, that would be trialled in churches this year, and rolled out to 1000 churches next year. It’s not restricted to Baptist churches, so any other church can contact BaptistCare who are interested to find out. …
Common Grace, a movement of Christians passionate about Jesus and justice, will launch a package of resources, called Safer, in November. …
Pastor Graham Hill … said he was stunned by the storm of reaction to a recent article by Julia Baird that quoted US research on the high levels of abuse by men who attend evangelical churches sporadically. [He said: ]
I was quite stunned personally when your [Julia’s] article came out and people tried to push back on that with excuses and denials and justifications and so on. That stunned me, the extent of abuse that happens in many families and certainly in the life of the church.
I have no idea personally of what it’s like to suffer, of course, like many of the women are suffering, but when I listen to them I hear stories of shame and fear and secrecy and being silenced. And then when I see Christian leaders trying to silence this conversation, it feels to me that we’re exaggerating those feelings, and so we’re causing more pain, more grief, more suffering, more silence, more loss, and I think we need to begin to address that honestly.
Some people say ‘wouldn’t it be nice if instead of justifying and excusing and denying, we just said sorry.
I’m sorry that we haven’t listened. I’m sorry that our systems and our cultures and our language and our theology has silenced you. I’m sorry that when you come to ask for help that we’ve told you that you need to practise more forgiveness or you need to be more submissive. I’m sorry that when it’s come to our attention that there are men behaving badly, that we’ve exonerated or we’ve colluded with those men in some way or we’ve allowed them to charm us. I’m sorry that instead of actually seeing a moment when we can make a difference we’ve resorted to excuses and denials rather than actually embracing the moment and choosing to change and make a difference. [bold added by Barb Roberts, because I know Graeme’s apology will be a balm to many victims who are reading this. It certainly was for me.]
Donna Crouch, a pastor from Hillsong Church who has worked in the domestic violence area for a long time, gave some practical tips for churches trying to work out how to respond.
“I think to start with we’ve got to change our language in church, that domestic violence is ‘out there.’ It’s not ‘out there;’ it’s in here, it’s everywhere – and not be ashamed about that … how to own that without being embarrassed. Of course it’s going to be in our church because our churches are a reflection of the community we’re in – so let’s get on with it!”
Crouch said her team focused particularly on how to intervene during the critical period when a woman is about to leave an abusive husband.
“The break-up is most critical period for a woman to be killed; that means our response before, during or after is also critical,” she said.
She said in NSW there had been cases where the first instance of physical violence was murder.
“That only heightens our responsibility for all this intervention with all these other symptoms of family violence.”
She said her team had been working on developing relationships with the local police domestic violence liaison officer, and finding out who the professionals and counsellors were in the community.
“We’re not going to do a Christian version of the professionals; we can use the trust that people put in us to refer them and do the journey with them. If that means sitting with them, calling the DV hotline, if it means going to the police, we do that.”
Pastor Michael Jensen said it was really important for pastors to have the knowledge of the dynamics of domestic violence to be able to see through deception on the part of the perpetrator.
“To see where I’m being buttered up is really important, just to even see that as a possibility that by his charm he’s actually trying to win me to his side is extraordinary,” he said.
He also said churches had an important role to play in speaking differently about masculinity.
“Jesus is an interesting guy, you know – humility … not exercising his muscle to assert his masculinity, that kind of taking the anxiety out of being seen to be a man, I think, would be something that in church communities could be revolutionary, could be a real change in the balance.”
Church Controversy with Domestic Abuse: an annotated bibliography This bibliography is continually updated, so if you want to suggest items that we could add to it, please email firstname.lastname@example.org .
There is teaching that has taking the Reformed world by storm. It was first popularized by Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology, and then promoted by the Council of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, founded by Wayne Grudem, Bruce Ware, and John Piper. The doctrine being promoted has since taken off. It is called “The eternal subordination of the Son.”
The submission of the Son to the authority of the Father was not limited to the period of Jesus’ life on earth. From the eternal councils of the Trinity before the world began to the eternal state of the new heavens and new earth after the final judgment, Scripture shows a consistent pattern. The Son has always been subject to the authority of the Father. (Biblical Evidence for the Eternal Submission of the Son to the Father by Wayne Grudem)
So Grudem and those at the Council of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood teach that the Son according to his divine nature is eternally subordinate to the Father. If Grudem is correct the Son is not sovereign by definition. If this is the case, then it follows — the Son is not Jehovah of Isaiah 45, contrary to the declaration of Paul in Philippians 2.
But if the Son is not sovereign, then the Son is not God.
This is an excerpt from Pastor Powell’s sermon, Jesus is Lord, which was delivered 8 October 2017 at First Reformed Church in Yuba City, California.
A great quote from our GEMS page:
Well-crafted damage control is not repentance.
It takes discernment to know the difference.
by Garris Elkins
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Using the text Ephesians 2:1-10, Dr R Scott Clark calls out lots of heretical views that are current today and are recycled versions of heresies the church has refuted in past centuries. Here are the false teachings which he calls out:
- The idea that salvation has two stages and our final salvation will depend on faith and works. Clark doesn’t name in the sermon the people who are teaching this today, but the primary culprits are John Piper, Desiring God, Thomas Schreiner and Mark Jones. Clark has made it abundantly clear in his blog and on twitter that John Piper is a proponent of this unorthodox idea.
- The New Perspective on Paul (N T Wright)
- The Federal Vision (Doug Wilson et al)
Dr. R Scott Clark is Professor Church History and Historical Theology at Westminster Seminary California where he has served since 1997. Professor Clark is an ordained minister in the United Reformed Church and is an Associate Pastor of Oceanside Untied Reformed Church in Carlsbad, CA.
Further Reading and Listening
The Connection between #MeToo and the rejection of ‘salvation by faith alone’ (Sola Fide) – Barbara Roberts shows how the rejection of sola fide and the wrong interpretation of biblical precepts for righteous living is connected to many women and children being sexually harassed and assaulted.
What Precisely is the Disagreement with John Piper? – one of Brad Mason’s many posts in which he explains what is wrong with Piper’s view of salvation.
Lordship Salvation, an interview with Pastor John Fonville – Theology Gals, Episode 35. Highly recommended for those who have the energy to dig into the history of how John MacArthur and John Piper have a ‘Lordship Salvation’ framework which is the substratum that gives rise to a lot of other problems in their doctrine.
Salvation by grace alone through Christ alone – Rachel Miller calls out John Piper’s doctrine of salvation.
Back to the reformed confessions and catechisms – Rachel Miller quotes from the reformed confessions and catechisms to show how badly Piper is wrong.
While driving about this morning, I listened to a radio interview about the shooter who killed and hurt people in a church in Texas. It turns out this man had a history of domestic abuse that the military forgot to report onto his permanent record. This error made it possible for him to continue to purchase weapons, despite the federal law prohibiting the sale of weapons to people with charges of domestic violence. The interview went on to talk about the strong link between mass murders and domestic abusers. And I sat in the car yelling at the radio,
When are people going to see domestic violence as something other than a family matter that got out of hand??? When are there going to be real and lasting consequences??? When are they going to see the darkness of the soul of a person who can do untold damage to those he claims to love??? And if he can do that and be unaffected, how much damage could he do to someone he doesn’t know???
I listened as the people on the radio talk show listed the commonalities of mass murderers — every one of which fit my husband.
Generally, it fits a pattern of easy access to firearms of individuals who have very controlling kind of relationships with their intimate partners and are greatly threatened when their control is challenged.
There are a few obvious signs that someone is considering mass murder.
Individuals who are amassing a number of weapons and a large amount of ammo, that obviously is a red flag. Individuals whose violence generally extends beyond the family would be an indicator of greater danger.
Listening to the radio this morning I was faced once again with the cold hard fact that I could at any moment be in grave danger. The man they were speaking of could be my husband. He owns 20+ weapons — several of which are AK 47 and AR 15 type assault weapons. He has hundreds, if not thousands of rounds of ammo for each gun.
We are separated (and not for the first time) over domestic abuse issues. I recently told him I am filing for divorce. He is currently ignoring the legal papers that have been served him.
All the boxes are checked. He fits the profile.
I yelled at the radio because we have a long history in the court — restraining orders, GAL* intervention with my children, years and years of counseling, charges of felony abuse. Behind our personal history, stands the courts, the police and the churches we attended during this time — all of whom colluded, without intention, to keep me in danger.
After I told a pastor I was afraid my husband was gonna kill somebody in our house, he replied, “He is only threatening you with heaven. Saved people should not ever be afraid of going to heaven.”
When counseling me that separation was wrong this same pastor offered this explanation to the abuse, “Just as Jesus was beaten and bruised for our transgressions, perhaps God is calling you to the same?“ This same pastor who offered me no hope, only guilt and condemnation from God, never confronted my husband about this behavior and never asked him to step down from his leadership position at church. He later admitted this was because he was afraid of him.
I went against church counsel (in my mind, also thumbing my nose at God) and went to the courts alone, asking for protection. I received from the courts–that the church described as a “humanistic court system” — what the church would not afford me: protection.
Based on the information I gave for the protection orders, the state stepped in and brought felony abuse charges against my husband. It was my pastor who went to the courts, on behalf of my husband, asking that the felony abuse charges be dropped and in return the church would counsel him and hold him responsible. Seems like a laughable offer over such serious charges, but the court agreed and removed the charges.
Although there were restraining orders for myself and my children, within months the church and the pastor in individual counseling was pressing me to drop the orders of protection and allow my husband to see the children and move home. I refused. I was facing being removed from the church for being a disobedient wife. In actuality, they were threatening me with removal of the only social outlet in my life. I lived under such strict control that I was not allowed to answer the telephone, get the mail, or have private conversations —amongst a huge list of other things I couldn’t do. Yet, it was me who was repeatedly chastised for “living in fear” and being “ungodly” for suffering with PTSD. I was told if I went for “secular help” I would be removed from the church. I couldn’t fathom losing more.
The pastor never chastised my husband when he repeatedly broke the law by violating the restraining orders. I was repeatedly told “his sins are no different than yours in God’s eyes”. [Note from ACFJ Eds: that pastor did sin levelling which is wicked and unbiblical. You can read about sin levelling here and here. ]
I found my husband in my home or found evidence that he had been in my home on multiple occasions. I called the sheriff to report Protection Order violations. The law went to my husband who admitted he had done it. Each time they told him, “the NEXT TIME you do that, you’ll be in trouble“.
The pastor told me I was being unfair. It was not natural for a man to go without his family. What I really needed to do was let him move home and start marriage counseling. This was my only option if I was going to please God. Divorce for any reason other than adultery was sin and God hated it. (How twisted is it to tell a woman and children that they would could have received a “get out of jail free” card had their father cheated, but if he is violent, controlling, and heartless, we just have to deal with that.)
I agreed to trying marriage counseling and him coming home. Within three weeks, my husband was violent again. I took the kids and stayed with a friend until he was removed from the house. I ended up fleeing the state with my children several months later. I felt abandoned by my church, by the courts and by God.
I found out later that because my husband had been charged with domestic abuse, he could no longer own guns. Rather than face the consequences of losing his firearms, the pastor took them to his house. When I left the state, he gave them back to my husband.
There’s so much more to the story, but my story is not so different than many others. Abusive men, time and time again, do not face the penalties of their actions. I honestly feel that had my husband had to face those felony charges, it might have woken him up to the reality of how heinous the actions of abusing his own family were.
Long story short, we were separated for somewhat less than ten years [detail airbrushed to protect victim] and we now live in another state from where the restraining orders and charges of abuse were filed. I allowed him to move back home, believing God had saved him. He seemed very different. I was wrong. My husband used a false profession of salvation to gain his way back home. My husband no longer used physical violence, but all other forms of abuse were being used daily. I didn’t believe I had the right to separate again if he wasn’t physically abusive. I stuck it out for about half a dozen years more.
When I discovered he was purchasing firearms again, I went to the sheriff’s office in this state to ask how this was possible with his history. They told me their hands are tied unless it shows up on his background check. There’s nothing they can do. Another failure to report domestic abuse on someone’s “permanent record” gave my husband the right to purchase assault rifles and tens of thousands of rounds of ammunition.
Ironically, it was over ammunition that we separated this final time. He had purchased over $1000 of ammunition on a credit card I knew nothing about. I found a receipt in the garage. Bringing it to him and asking for an explanation began a six-month angry stonewalling/silent treatment that ended our marriage.
I tell you all this because I am no different than the thousands of other women who face these issues every day. We are not the ones protected by the courts and the law. Those “mistakes” of not filing domestic abuse charges on our abusers record have real and deadly consequences for us. Those allowances of lawless actions that abusers do to intimidate and strike fear in the abused, such as “NEXT TIME you are going to jail,” only embolden them and reinforce their belief that they truly are above the law. We are not the ones who find mercy and grace within the church. Most often, we make the clergy uncomfortable and our fears are chastised, minimized and/or ignored. We do not, and often cannot, stand up for ourselves because years of abuse by a man has stripped us of any authority in our own lives and has taught us that we are nothing and worthy of being ignored. For me, the message my abuser taught me was reinforced by the courts, the police and the church when I reached my breaking point and asked for help.
We are the ones who go underground and continue living our lives as best we can. You know us as your neighbor, your friend or co-worker. I live a pretty normal existence, but this morning when riding in the car, I heard the radio story that reminds me that I and anyone who might be around me at any particular time could quite possibly be in grave danger.
The church, the police, and the courts, will be shocked and saddened when and if another tragedy happens — never realizing it actually will be BECAUSE of them that it happened.
*GAL stands for Guardian ad Litem. It is a person the court appoints to investigate what solutions would be in the best interests of a child in a divorce or parental rights and responsibilities case.
For further reading: