A Cry For Justice

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

When the Wheels of Church Justice Move Like a Snail, it is a Sign of Injustice

Have you had the sad experience of being involved in church “courts” in the process of getting free of your abuser? Numbers of denominations have intricate court systems set up (I am thinking particularly of Presbyterians here) in which it can take months and months or even year upon year to obtain a ruling. And here is something that I have noticed happening repeatedly in these ecclesiastical machination processes:

  1. The process of determining the guilt of an evil person such as an abusive spouse (no, I will say “abusive husband” because that is how it almost always goes down) proceeds at the speed of the thickest molasses flow.
  2. The process of determining the guilt of the abuse victim who will not heed her church’s orders to reconcile with her abuser, proceeds at a speed more akin to the flow of….well…rushing water.

Why is that? “You say he abuses you, eh? Well, let’s not be hasty. No marriage is perfect you know. Be patient. Go back to him. Forgive him.”  “What, you say you won’t do what we say? Oh, well then…”.  And in short order the charges against her are made, tried, and she is convicted and out the door, counted as an unbeliever, handed over to the devil. What happened to her original case against her abuser? It just gets forgotten. Lost in church legal limbo. She’s gone. He’s still there. Case closed for lack of substance and prosecution.

Snail-paced process is almost always a sign of injustice. Because someone does not want it to go forward. Someone is an ally of the wicked.

It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father’s wife. And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you. For though absent in body, I am present in spirit; and as if present, I have already pronounced judgment on the one who did such a thing. When you are assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus, you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord. (1 Corinthians 5:1-5)

The Apostle Paul’s directive is crystal clear: next time you meet, put him out. In fact you should have done it already. It’s a no-brainer, but in your arrogance you have let it drag on and on and you boast about how merciful you all are. This is sin. Repent and obey the Lord.

While abusers are deceptive liars, skilled at putting on the disguise of godliness, that deception simply does not hold up when a victim comes forth with the truth of what the guy really is. You see it all the time. Pastors and elders often don’t necessarily deny that he is doing what she says he does (though they will claim she exaggerates). They know he has done these things and very often in fact they know it because he comes to them in his fake repentance, tearful and pitiful, saying his sorry’s. They know. But in fact, they don’t really care. What they want to do is pretend that the Spirit of Christ working the grace of God among them (thus giving a divine stamp of approval to their ministry) has moved this fellow to a wonderful reformation of repentance. But the victim….she just keeps messing it all up and saying his sorry’s are phony.

Paul told the Corinthians they were arrogant and disobedient to Christ. And that is exactly what these allies of abusers are today. That charge stands until they repent and start putting abusers out of their midst, and doing it speedily.


Wisdom in Wicked Times — part 11 of Ecclesiastes sermon series by Ps Sam Powell

Wisdom in Wicked Times
by Ps Sam Powell
Ecclesiastes 8:1-13 (KJV)

Chapter 8 Who is as the wise man? and who knoweth the interpretation of a thing? a man’s wisdom maketh his face to shine, and the boldness of his face shall be changed.

2 I counsel thee to keep the king’s commandment, and that in regard of the oath of God.

3 Be not hasty to go out of his sight: stand not in an evil thing; for he doeth whatsoever pleaseth him.

4 Where the word of a king is, there is power: and who may say unto him, What doest thou?

5 Whoso keepeth the commandment shall feel no evil thing: and a wise man’s heart discerneth both time and judgment.

6 Because to every purpose there is time and judgment, therefore the misery of man is great upon him.

7 For he knoweth not that which shall be: for who can tell him when it shall be?

8 There is no man that hath power over the spirit to retain the spirit; neither hath he power in the day of death: and there is no discharge in that war; neither shall wickedness deliver those that are given to it.

9 All this have I seen, and applied my heart unto every work that is done under the sun: there is a time wherein one man ruleth over another to his own hurt.

10 And so I saw the wicked buried, who had come and gone from the place of the holy, and they were forgotten in the city where they had so done: this is also vanity.

11 Because sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil.

12 Though a sinner do evil an hundred times, and his days be prolonged, yet surely I know that it shall be well with them that fear God, which fear before him:

13 But it shall not be well with the wicked, neither shall he prolong his days, which are as a shadow; because he feareth not before God.


Listen to the sermon by clicking on the link above.

One of the Worst Letters We Have Seen From a Pastor to an Abuse Victim

I think this is one of the most cruel letters from a pastor to an abuse victim that I have seen. While it is very similar in ways to others I have read, it is remarkably deceptive in a number of ways. The “love” words it uses. The selective and dishonest quotes it lays on her. And the not so veiled threat of “obey us or else.” Names have been removed and replaced with [wife] and [husband] for the protection of the victim. She has given us full permission to publish it. Her abuser used emotional, spiritual, sexual, and economic oppression against her over a period of many years.  Keep that in mind when you read what this “pastor” and his elders say to her here.  Many, many thanks to her from all of us.

Oh, and this is not some isolated, independent pastor and church. This is a mainline, conservative Presbyterian denominational church that applauds itself in the seminary preparation of its pastors.

So, here you go. As for me, let me say that reading this was like reading a letter from the prince of darkness, a cunning liar working to enslave. I was very tempted to insert my comments into the letter but decided it would be best if you read it for yourselves and put your comments here on the blog. I will provide just a few questions to provoke our thinking as you read it.

  1. Who is a Christian according to this pastor?
  2. What does “redeeming a marriage” mean? Is that a biblical concept?
  3. How often does this pastor claim to know the thoughts and feelings of the victim?
  4. How many abusive, oppressive marriages, according to this pastor, must we expect the Lord to “redeem”?
  5. What kind of authority does this pastor claim to have over the victim?
  6. Do you see guilting statements leveled at the victim?
  7. Is marriage an “inviolable bond”?
  8. Who is the pastor accusing of “abandonment”? The abuser or the victim?
  9. For all of his talk of how grieved he is for her, does this pastor really “feel” for her?

And one final point as you begin. This letter quotes a paragraph from the PCA Position Paper on Divorce and Remarriage which we have listed on this page of our resources where we stated our concerns about it. That paper recommends that abuse is abandonment and grounds for divorce. BUT THIS PASTOR AND ELDER BOARD ONLY QUOTED ONE PARAGRAPH THAT SOUNDS LIKE IT SUPPORTS THEIR CHARGE AGAINST HER! They conveniently left out the rest of  what the Position Paper said. That is rank deception and spiritual malpractice. We will include the rest of that committee’s statement at the end of this post.


Dear [wife’s name],

We grieve, along with you and [husband], at the present state of your marriage relationship. We know, both from Scripture and experience, that marriage is hard. Even as Christians we sin against one another. Even as Christians we hurt one another. We acknowledge that the emotional wounds that are inflicted in this most intimate of human relationships are real, painful and deep. We believe that even the best Christian marriage is comprised of two redeemed sinners who will inevitably sin against the One before whom our vows are made and the one to whom our vows are given. Your marriage is no different. Sin has occurred, both willfully and unintentionally, as both you and [husband] have acknowledged.

We also want you to know that we have appreciation for how someone can feel so hurt, so overwhelmed, so alone, so utterly hopeless after years of living in a situation that they believe there remains only one option open to them—leaving.

Yet we also believe that a Christian marriage, no matter how shaky its foundations or deep the patterns of sin, can be redeemed and restored by the power of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Not that the gospel is a magic wand, nor will necessarily repair things overnight, but we believe it provides the resources we need to walk the hard road of repentance, reconciliation and restoration. When someone has been living within a dysfunctional marriage for so long, often doing so in secret, it is very easy to assume that nothing will ever change. That is our natural human response; understandably so.

This is one reason why God has placed us in community with one another and under the shepherding of those who are entrusted to care for us. One of the roles that our church community and leaders play in our lives is to remind us and call us to respond to life and circumstances in a way that lines up with the gospel we profess. Sadly, in your decision to withdraw from your marriage you have also withdrawn from your church family and the counsel of those who care deeply for you and [husband].

We acknowledged that you have been sinned against in your marriage. [Husband]  has acknowledged this to you and to us. He has expressed remorse and repentance. He has sought counsel and accountability. In saying this, we in no way want to minimize the pain you have experienced. But we also understand that it is easy to respond to sin against us with our own compounding sin.

And it is for this reason that there is a certain difficulty in writing this letter to you. But our hope is that you will see this letter as a demonstration of our love for you by warning you of the seriousness of your actions. We understand that only God can evaluate the human heart, but we must tell you that the decisions you have made are not consistent with how the Bible describes a follower of Jesus Christ.

The marriage relationship we enter into before God is an inviolable bond. Sadly, because of sin, this can be and is broken by adultery. We are grateful that there have been no reports in your marriage of such serious sin that could in fact become grounds for permissible divorce. However, there is another sin that can occur that is tantamount to divorce, and that is abandonment. Our view is that Scripture teaches that abandonment is not necessarily grounds for divorce, but rather effectively is a divorce. In other words, when one leaves or abandons a marriage for unbiblical grounds, they have essentially created a divorce.

When you initially left months ago, we were hopeful that it would be a temporary season that would provide clarity and a willingness for both of you to begin moving towards reconciliation. Sadly, it has not. In fact, as the months have passed it appears to us by your actions that you have only grown in your commitment to abandoning the marriage and not seeking reconciliation.

While Scripture does permit a “season of separation” for prayer, by mutual consent, it does not permit an extended, unilateral leaving of the marriage. Some might argue that there is allowance for separation without divorce, but a careful reading of Scripture does not support such a position. 1 Corinthians 7, verses 10 and 11, are key verses of instruction to two spouses, both of whom are believers:

To the married I give this charge (not I, but the Lord): the wife should not separate from her husband (but if she does, she should remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband), and the husband should not divorce his wife.

In these verses, Paul tells the Christian wife not to “separate from” (chorizo) her Christian husband, and likewise tells the husband not to “divorce” (aphiemi) his wife. In the context of Greco-Roman practice, the verbs used for “to separate from” and “divorce” are used synonymously. The critical point here is that Paul is telling them not to “divorce” each other. In other words, Paul uses Greek words which in this context are referring to divorce, not separation as we know it. Here is what one highly-regarded New Testament scholar, Gordon Fee, writes concerning this important passage of Scripture:

Much has been made of the use of the verb “to separate oneself from” (chorizo), in distinction from the verb used in vs. 12-13, “to divorce” (aphiemi). But that probably reflects our own urgencies for greater precision. Divorce in Greco-Roman culture could be “legalized” by means of documents; but more often it simply happened. In this culture divorce was divorce, whether established by a document or not. Either the man sent his wife away (=”divorce” in the sense of v. 12), or else either of them “left” the other (=”to separate”)…Ordinarily when the wife “divorces” she simply leaves her husband (“is separated” from him); the same verb is used in v. 15 of a pagan partner of either sex who leaves, and occurs regularly in the papyri for mutual divorce (agreeing “to separate from each other”). On the other hand, a man ordinarily “divorced” his wife (“sent her away”); nonetheless in v. 13 the wife can do the same.

This is how our own PCA denomination position paper addresses these verses:

We tend to interpret verses 10-11 in terms of modern day separation rather than divorce. But the Bible does not deal with the idea of separation as a “half-way house” step as we know it. Perhaps the biblical writers were so committed to the permanence of marriage that they did not want to study ways to effect temporary separation. But more likely, it was the fact that separation in first century society was de facto divorce. That these verses were clearly referring to divorce is evidenced by the fact that the believing wife is called “unmarried” (agamos) in verse 11.

In short, what we believe Scripture teaches is that there are only two conditions Christian spouses can live in: married or divorced. There is no space for those who remain married yet live separated/estranged. Such a condition is not marriage, but is in essence a divorce.

Again, we cannot emphasize enough our understanding of and compassion for the level of pain and disappointment you have experienced in your marriage over the years. We believe that repentance and forgiveness must happen. We believe that sinful patterns and behaviour must be addressed. We do not believe, however, that the action of leaving your marriage is an acceptable, biblical, God-honouring response to these difficulties.

As a church community we expect each of us to respond to sin — our own and others — from a position of brokenness and humility, seeking repentance where necessary and granting forgiveness where required. [Wife], our call to you is to faithfulness to your vows before God, trusting that his grace is sufficient and that his gospel offers full provision for what you need. Our call to you is to begin to take the necessary steps towards reconciliation and healing of the breach. Our call to you is to come under the care and counsel of brothers and sisters who love you in Christ and desire to see you and [husband[ flourish and strengthened.

[Wife], we love you, and even though it would be easier to do nothing, we hope that this letter will be seen by you as evidence of our love and concern for you, and of our love for the honor of Christ supremely.

On behalf of the Session,

_____________, Pastor/Teaching Elder


And here is “the rest of the story” that this pastor and his elders deceptively and dishonestly failed to include in this letter. This is from the PCA position paper which you can find on our resources page or through PCA History (see pp 227-228).

4. Applying Paul’s instruction about desertion today

Are there other forms of — separation‖ today that may be considered equivalent to this leaving of the marriage of which Paul speaks? Specifically, what about cases of habitual physical abuse? Has that person deserted his spouse to the extent we may label it de facto divorce? We must be careful not to open the floodgate of excuses. On the other hand, we need to recognize the reality of the ―separation‖. We should allow Sessions the liberty to discern with much prayer what would be the proper response in particular circumstance. Several considerations incline us to agree with those of our authorities who have maintained that desertion can occur as well by the imposition of intolerable condition as by departure itself. We are struck by the fact that, taking Matthew 19 and 1 Corinthians 7 together, it appears that the Lord concedes the necessity of the abolition of marriage in certain cases precisely so as to protect a blameless spouse from intolerable conditions. Further, taking into account both the general principles of Biblical ethics and the Scripture’s characteristic manner of ethical instruction, viz. the statement of commandments in a general form to which is added case law sufficient to indicate the manner of application, it seems to us that those Reformed authorities are correct who have argued that sins which are tantamount in extremity and consequence to actual desertion should be understood to produce similar eventualities (cf. Larger Catechism, Q. 99, A. 6).

What is more, a husband’s violence, particularly to the degree that it endangers his wife’s safety, if unremedied, seems to us, by any application of Biblical norms, to be as much a ruination of the marriage in fact as adultery or actual departure. This is so precisely because his violence separates them, either by her forced withdrawal from the home or by the profound cleavage between them which the violence produces, as surely as would his own departure, and is thus an expression of his unwillingness ―to consent‖ to live with her in marriage (1 Cor. 7:12-13; Eph. 5:28-29). Further, insofar as the ―passivity‖ of the blameless spouse is an important prerequisite in Paul‘s permission of the dissolution of marriage on account of desertion, it seems right to note that in the case of physical abuse, for example, the blameless spouse is similarly victimized. Finally, credible alternatives to this point-of-view seem to us to be wholly lacking Scriptural support. It is all very well to recommend separation as a temporal expedient to protect a battered wife, but perpetual separation amounts to a Roman Catholic doctrine of the indissolubility of marriage and could scarcely be justified as a Biblical alternative to divorce.

Thursday Thought — Is animal abuse an indicator of domestic violence?

The rates of co-occurrence between domestic violence and animal abuse reported varied between 25% and 86%. Furthermore, children who were abused, exposed to domestic violence, or animal abuse were at risk of developing criminal behavior.

[Excerpt from the abstract of ‘The connection between animal abuse and interpersonal violence: A review from the veterinary perspective.” Science Direct: Research in Veterinary Science]

Theology of Niceness — Ps Sam Powell

The churches of today have replaced God’s love with a false god of niceness. He will never interfere with our free will. He never wants to hurt anyone’s feelings. He doesn’t like it when we argue. He doesn’t really care about what we believe; He just wants us to play nice together. 

And so goes the theology of niceness.

But then something happens that niceness just can’t explain. A bomber sets off bombs in the middle of a huge crowd; a man goes to trial and the horrific details of his abomination of abortion comes to light. When those sort of things happen niceness just doesn’t cover it.

We tend to say mindless platitudes like “God hates sin, but loves the sinner,” or “repentance is when you final realize just how much God loves you.” That theology is nice, but it has no power in the face of great wickedness.

What power does it have when you have a mad man blowing up three year children? What power does it have when a man walks into a movie theater and opens fire? What power does it have when men fly airplanes into buildings?

How does niceness explain men like Kermit Gosnell and Adolf Hilter? Monsters so horrific that many of us can not even image it.

When the poor are oppressed, when children are abused and slaughtered; when sexual assault happens on five year old girls; when theft, torture, murder, pain, and suffering are common – there’s something within man that cries out for justice. There’s something in man that completely rejects the niceness of the hollow-headed spewers of lying vanity. And then the world asks us, “Where is your God?”

When we rejected imprecatory psalms, when we lied about the justice of God, we robbed also ourselves of the power of the gospel. And we gave up any hope of offering a meaningful answer to a world torn by hatred, and sin, and tremendous wickedness.


The above quote is by Ps Sam Powell and is from his sermon Sanctification Through Suffering – 1 Peter 4:1-7.  Sam is the pastor of First Reformed Church, Yuba City, California.  His weekly sermons can be found on sermonaudio.com. You can also find him on Facebook and Twitter.

We’ve featured things by Ps Sam Powell before on this blog and we value him as a colleague in the battle to expose and prevent domestic abuse in Christian circles.

Further Reading

Praying for God’s Justice

According to Many Pastors, the Saints in Heaven are Sinning

Abuse andAnger:  Is it a Sin to be Angry Toward Our Abuser?

Praying for God’s Justice

our Psalms tag

What Does the Devil Look Like? Getting Wise to the Abuser’s Victim-Playing Schemes

One of the most frequent tactics used by the worst abuser I have ever had to deal with was that of playing the victim. And it was more than that. He would put on a facial expression that had successfully “worked” for him all his life, gaining him people’s sympathy. At other times he would behave almost as if he was having a breakdown of some kind, leading observers to believe he must be under terrible and undeserved stress as a result of being horribly wronged. If he did suffer some pain in life, you can be sure that he would capitalize on it to maximum advantage.

This man’s chief skill in other words, as he constantly labored to gain allies against his targeted victim, was doing or saying anything that would gain him pity. This is what a sociopath craves. Pity. Because when he is pitied, he has you. You become his ally.

And it is long past time that we all wised up to this nastiness.

I personally know, as do many of you, abuse victims and other targets of these wicked ones, people who are seeing their friends, their close family members, fellow church members and others turned against them by their abuser. How? Pity. “Oh, oh, my. Poor, poor man. How you are suffering.” Hug, hug.

THIS is what the devil looks like very, very often. And when you pity him or his servants, you are joining forces with him against the innocent.

I have been accused more than once of not having enough empathy for people. Well, I can tell you that I do have empathy. The trick is to learn to have it for the right people and to withhold it from others. One of these characters showed up at our church one Sunday morning recently. “Oh, just look at how neatly this man was dressed and yet, how sad his demeanor. He must be suffering some distress. Let’s see if we can help him.”


I called him to my office and in front of (and with the full support of) our elders, confronted him with information I knew about him from another source, opened the door and told him to leave and never come back. Look of hurt and confusion swept over his face. “Leave and never come back. You are not to be here again.”

The Lord Jesus showed deep empathy for many people. But He also withheld it from many more — the wicked. We must do the same.

Your abuser will seek to make you feel sorry for him. DON’T. HE isn’t sorry for you or anyone else. Abusers hiding in churches will approach us and through facial expressions, tone of voice, things they say or don’t say, work to make us pity them. STOP PITYING THEM! Stop listening to them. Stop helping them. Just stop!

“Oh, my. yes, he has done very wicked things. He has treated his wife in shameful ways. But…but…he was just diagnosed with cancer.” DO NOT PITY HIM! What you need to learn, what we all must learn, is that not even a diagnosis of terminal cancer is going to make such a person repent. He will STILL use his illness, or the death or illness of someone close to him, the same way he always uses such things. It may be inconceivable to us, but we must understand this clearly. Do not put yourself in his circumstances, think about how YOU would feel, and then extrapolate your feelings to him. Stop doing that. He is not you. He does not think like you do. He thinks and schemes like what he is — an evil man working to control and deceive you through your pity.

Here it is from the Lord’s own Word. We of course do not literally kill an evil man as Israel did under the Old Covenant. But the point is, we are to deal with such a person in a manner quite the opposite of pity. Pity his victim. But do not pity him.

If your brother, the son of your mother, or your son or your daughter or the wife you embrace or your friend who is as your own soul entices you secretly, saying, ‘Let us go and serve other gods,’ which neither you nor your fathers have known, some of the gods of the peoples who are around you, whether near you or far off from you, from the one end of the earth to the other, you shall not yield to him or listen to him, nor shall your eye pity him, nor shall you spare him, nor shall you conceal him. But you shall kill him. Your hand shall be first against him to put him to death, and afterward the hand of all the people. You shall stone him to death with stones, because he sought to draw you away from the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. (Deuteronomy 13:6-10)

How many churches today are doing precisely what I have boldfaced in these verses? What do you suppose the Lord thinks of that?

  • You shall not yield to him
  • You shall not listen to him
  • You shall not pity him
  • You shall not spare him
  • You shall not conceal him

There it is. That is how we are to treat the devil. That is how we are to treat his wicked servants.


Further Reading

Do not Pity the Wicked:  Abusers Use Pity as a Snare

Christians Needs to Get “Pity” Right and Stop Pitying the Wicked While Refusing Pity to the Innocent