A Cry For Justice

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

Abuse and Submission: We Have Gone Very, Very Wrong

1 Corinthians 11:3 ESV (3)  But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.

If anyone thought that this post was going to be about how those “horrid radical feminists” have attacked and maligned the Bible, well, you are going to be surprised.  When I say that we have gone wrong in our teaching of the biblical doctrine of husband as head of his wife, I mean conservative, Bible-believing Christians have gone wrong.

I have been thinking about this matter quite a lot over the last few months, and things just are not settling well with me.  To add to my discomfort, I re-read the wonderful article by Steven Tracy last night, 1 Corinthians 11:3: A Corrective to Distortions and Abuses of Male Headship.  To find it online, go to this link  http://cbmw.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/8-1.pdf and scroll to page 17 to read Tracy’s article.

Tracy does a great job and in fact calls us to hear at least some of the fundamental charges being made even by radical feminists who flatly hate the Bible.  Primarily however he deals with the Scripture itself and calls us to consider that the Bible teaches an intimate relationship of two equal-in-essence beings in both the Father and Son relationship and in the husband/wife relationship in marriage.

THIS IS THE STUFF THAT WE HAVE FAILED TO SAY FROM OUR PULPITS!  And as a result, the biblical truths of the husband as head of the wife as the Father is head of the Son, have been all messed up and misapplied by sinful people like us.  It has been made to be a power and control issue when it is not.  Power and control in the hands of sinful beings always, always, always carries the likely danger for abuse of that power.

In reading what Tracy had to say, I was also impressed with the fact that it really is true that down through the ages, men have abused their power over women.  The thing is undeniable unless a person wants to be willfully blind. When those who hate Christianity shout this charge, we need to stop writing them off and listen.  They have a point and they have documented it.  Those with power inevitably abuse that power and oppress the weak.  Guilty.

Think about it.  In conservative, Bible-believing churches like ours, men are pastors and elders and deacons and male leadership is endorsed in the home. Do we appreciate the potential for abuse of those positions?  I don’t think so.  We think too highly of ourselves.  The result?  Well, all you have to do is read the comments and stories in this blog to find out what the results have been.  Abused people, generally women, abused by men – and then further abused by the male leadership of their churches and by the women in those churches who have been taught to go along with the unbiblical traditions and applications of “Scripture.”

And you know what?  THIS, I believe, is a fundamental reason for all of this cover up and denial we meet with in churches when we try to expose this injustice toward victims.  We are assaulting the very power structure of the thing. We are like whistle-blowers.  Pastors and church leaders (generally men) panic when an abuse victim comes to them asking for justice.  They may not realize that this is the psychological dynamic going on in their heads at the time, but it is there.  They are afraid.  Afraid of what?  Afraid that the system is going to be shown to be broken.  Afraid of the consequences of siding with a woman against her husband.  Afraid that we all just might have to admit that a bunch of what we have been teaching our churches and our wives and our kids has been a bunch of bunk!

So the fear reigns and the victim is given one of those long shepherd hook staff thingies around the neck and dragged off the stage.

44 Comments

  1. Leaving a comment so I can check the little box and follow the discussion.

    Don’t want to miss this one 🙂

  2. This is a very troubling topic for me. Before my divorce, I pretty much just accepted whatever was taught me, even if it didn’t sit well in my heart. Once an issue became personal and I was asked to accept something that did violence to my soul, I had to start questioning. And thus, I’ve questioned a lot of other things as well. One of these is the idea of Complementarianism.

    I still cannot read a statement such as the one in the article:

    “While complimentarians by definition believe that God has given the man final domestic and ecclesiastical authority . . .”

    and have it sit right in my heart. I am not denying scripture, but my heart tells me we are interpreting something wrong when we come to conclusions that our ethical and moral behavior should be guided by gender.

    The Complementarianists themselves are pushing me more and more toward Egalitarianism because every example they give sounds oppressive. Every time I hear John Piper (who coined the term “Complementarianism”) speak on the topic I am more inclined to reject it. Perhaps if we are given a true model that doesn’t seem to be attached to the oppression of women based on their gender then I will be able to accept it. Even this article, while it tries to rescue Complementarianism from those who use it oppressively, still presents a view that sounds oppressive to me. Giving someone authority over another because of his gender- I cannot see how that is not oppressive. Authority in itself is not oppressive, but this is authority derived anatomical differences rather than the ability to lead well.

    I understand the parallel between male headship and the Trinity that Tracy draws (and I’ve heard it before); however, I don’t know that I buy it. We can apprehend the facts of the Trinity because they are clearly taught in scripture, but that doesn’t mean we have it all figured it. There is certainly an aspect of mystery in the doctrine, and attempting to model it in our marriages (and only using two of the Persons of the Trinity for said model) seems a mighty task, and I hesitate to say that the application is even possible.

    I want to be Biblical, and if the scripture really does state male headship as God’s ordained order for how marriages for all times and in all places are to run, then I want to believe it. But if that is the case, I need a model that is not oppressive in any way toward women. Oppression can never be loving, and both Paul and Jesus asserted that love was the highest law- in fact Paul said it was the entirety of the law. Any scriptural interpretation that is set against this principle that we are to love one another must be inaccurate. For my part, I cannot see men having authority over women simply because they are men as NOT being oppressive unless that authority is never invoked, and authority never invoked isn’t authority.

    I know I’m in a hurt place and questioning a lot of what I’ve been taught- this particular topic is one that gives me a lot of internal conflict and I pray a lot for God to show me the truth. So I’m not here taking a stand against Complementarianism, but for the place I am in right now, I have a lot of difficulty with it.

    • Anonymous

      Jeff S, I, too, have been through that place, where much of what has been taught just doesn’t make sense. I feel so much more at peace after exploring and studying the Scriptures. It’s just amazing how certain teachings have been made to appear Biblical, when a closer, more in-depth look at the Scriptures reveal something quite different.

  3. Kay

    I am so glad to see this subject being addressed. One of the reasons I stayed toooooo long in an abusive marriage was because I sincerely wanted to be a submissive wife – to be obedient to God. I kept thinking I just didn’t understand what true biblical submission was. I was continually told i was rebellious, etal. The teaching in our churches needs to be altered! The following statement hits home for me and I am going to share these posts with leaders from my church who agree women need to be helped. Thank you so much!

    I need a model that is not oppressive in any way toward women. Oppression can never be loving, and both Paul and Jesus asserted that love was the highest law- in fact Paul said it was the entirety of the law. Any scriptural interpretation that is set against this principle that we are to love one another must be inaccurate.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Right on Kay. No way is Christ’s leadership oppressive. Your experience is far, far too typical. Years of suffering added unnecessarily. There does indeed need to be a widespread reformation in our churches in this regard.

  4. anon

    So wouldn’t making women pastors and elders bring some kind of balance to all of this. Are we not adding to the abuse by saying ‘no you can’t?’ And what does scripture mean when it says there is neither ‘male nor female?’ One more question…are we limiting the body by not allowing women (who are part of the body) to operate in the gifts that God has entrusted to His church? Paul say’s that God has given ‘some’ as teachers, prophets, apostles so on. This can’t just be for the male gender. So I can see why the feminists would have a problem with the bible.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Anon – Here’s the strange thing, and I think that Barbara can give us some more insight into this — no, it wouldn’t automatically bring balance. Abuse still prevails far too frequently even in groups that have embraced more of an egalitarian principle. Why? Because they seem to forget about the real problem — the abuse of power. I still hold to my personal conclusion that the offices of pastor and elder in the church are to be held by QUALIFIED men. I realize that there are genuine Christians who disagree with me on this point, and as long as they do so based upon their own interpretation of Scripture which they still see as the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God then though I disagree, I do not reject them. At the same time, what I see happening in our churches is that male leadership so often slides into an abuse of their leadership offices, clinging to a warped concept of what Christlike, loving, self-sacrificing leadership looks like.

      And I caution all of us not to get drawn into a huge debate of complementarian vs egalitarian models because they really aren’t the fundamental issue when it comes to exposing abuse in the church. The real issue is the abuse of power and because the norm in our conservative churches is for the men to hold that power, the abuse most often comes from them with women as victims.

      • anon

        Thanks for clarifying Jeff C. Greatly appreciated:) Just finished reading an article on facebook
        posted by a well known ministry. It was about a 24yr old women who is divorcing her husband because of “infractions and concern for the safety of herself and children.” In the article she asked for prayer because this was a painful thing. She expressed that her grounds for divorcing WERE biblical. But that statement seemed to fly right over this ministries head. This ministry did not show concern that she not longer felt safe for herself or children but that she held a woman’s ministry at 24 and now divorcing. The level of judgement in the body when a someone decides to follow through on divorcing is appauling. So much ‘lack of knowlege’ in the body where divorce is concerned. Your blog highlights this well. thanks.

      • Jeff Crippen

        Yes, it is appalling. The condemnation is incredible. I think that part of it is due to churches taking the divorce as a personal affront to their reputation. Oh, they might say that they are concerned for the name of Christ, but in reality I think it is more just plain selfish image control. “This will make us look bad.” Well, if we have been acting like we have all the answers, that really bad things never happen in our churches, that… well, that we are rather perfect and have it all together as opposed to all of those messed up unsaved worldly people, then of course we are going to fret about our image when one of our own marriages breaks up. But we should be most grieved by that fact that a person like this 24 year old lady has been being treated wickedly right under our noses by a wicked man. That is where our sense of outrage should be. And then we should render her help and justice and expose the guilty party’s sin. But this is most often what does NOT happen.

        We want to focus here on calling churches, pastors, members, and leaders to wake up to the abuse hiding in our churches. I am afraid we could argue comp vs egal forever and get seriously sidetracked – something I cautioned everyone about when we started this blog. The theme of this post is to call for a serious re-examination of how we understand and apply the head and submission doctrines of Scripture and put an end to the abuse of authority.

        I would like for our readers to understand that the things I have presented in this post are actually quite radical for most conservative Bible believing Christians and it has taken the Lord quite a long time to teach me what I am saying here. There may well be more He needs to teach me, but we must be patient and forebearing with one another lest, as Paul says, we bite and devour one another.

        Any genuine Christian who holds to the Scriptures as the inerrant word of God and calling for the exposure of abuse hiding in the church and for the righting of injustice effected upon its victims is a friend whether they see eye to eye with us on every point.

  5. Anonymous

    What is even more difficult, is that it seems the pastors/elders/men/women who are teaching headship and submission, have become “unteachable”, which is never good. You cannot tell them or teach them anything. They are set that their way is right, and because they are right, then anything contrary to them, even if it is GOD saying it (ie divorce in the instances of abuse, abandonment or adultery are Biblically allowed) just will not be tolerated. I wonder if these people know the judgment they are racking up for themselves and that they have put themselves in the place of God Himself!

  6. Ella Walker

    I think the reason there is such a negative reaction to the idea of male leadership is because most of what we have witnessed in the conservative, Bible-believing churches is so far from what scripture would teach about what it means to be a leader. Men are taught either explicitly, or by example that to be a leader means he has to be in charge of everybody, he gets to call the shots, he gets to control what everyone does or doesn’t do, and things have to go his way because he’s the boss! But that in no way describes a real leader. My ex husband used to shout at me that he was the leader, and that my place was to obey him but when it came to actually being a leader, he didn’t really want to be one at all. He didn’t want that responsibility. It was only about power and control.
    If husbands are to be the head of the wife as God is the head of Jesus then looking at the way God and Jesus relate to each other is a pretty safe guideline to follow. Jesus continually said that He did only that which He saw the Father do, that He came to do the will of God. But Jesus also was not shy about saying that He was equal with God. God delegated all authority to Jesus. A wise leader also knows how to delegate authority. As my current husband says “For a man to think that he has all wisdom, all knowledge, and all insight to make all decisions for all of his household all the time is insanity.”
    I cannot tell you how often in the 18 years that I was with my first husband and the 10 years alone after I left him, and raising 5 children, that I longed and wished for a man who was a real leader to be in our lives. Someone to protect us, someone to pave the way through the jungle of life, someone we could trust, someone who would give his life for us, someone who was a strong, steady rock to lean on when it seemed like the sky was falling. I think that the heart of every woman wants someone like that in her life. I may be wrong but I have seen other women’s tears and heard there heart’s cry as well as my own.

    • Laurie

      Ella, it is true. After such devastation a wife really wants someone to trust, someone to care. When I was young, my dad “tickled” me, in a wrong manner. My own husband was “inproprietous,” to say it nicely. The first cries of my broken heart after the separation were…”I will never know the love of a husband or a father, not on earth. It may happen for someone else, but it will never happen for me. Even if love tried to find me, I would have to say ‘no.’ I can’t EVER be that vulnerable again.” Still feel the same. But it looks like your husband (your REAL husband) is a very wise and understanding person from your quote.

      But I don’t want to be so jaded that my own children will feel as hopeless as I do. I know that it is not impossible for each of them to find a godly, loving spouse and live a wholesome life. But I know history seems to repeat itself, too.

      Just one thing that stands out to me, though, as a deterrent to the merry-go-round of abusive marriage cycles: GOD!

    • Jeff Crippen

      Ella – if i had your comments here earlier I would have made them a post! You are dead on target here. This is exactly what I was trying to say. Men are frequently using authority in marriage and the church in a wrong, unbiblical manner that oppresses those without power. In fact even the notion that being “head” or leader entails “power over” is not from the Lord.

      • Anonymous

        Agree completely Ella. Very well said. It is the natural desire of women, to want to be loved and protected. That is why it is such a dastardly thing when she marries and winds up being abused by her husband. Thanks for sharing your heart.

  7. Jeff Crippen

    We want to focus here on calling churches, pastors, members, and leaders to wake up to the abuse hiding in our churches. I am afraid we could argue comp vs egal forever and get seriously sidetracked – something I cautioned everyone about when we started this blog. The theme of this post is to call for a serious re-examination of how we understand and apply the head and submission doctrines of Scripture and put an end to the abuse of authority.

    I would like for our readers to understand that the things I have presented in this post are actually quite radical for most conservative Bible believing Christians and it has taken the Lord quite a long time to teach me what I am saying here. There may well be more He needs to teach me, but we must be patient and forebearing with one another lest, as Paul says, we bite and devour one another.

    Any genuine Christian who holds to the Scriptures as the inerrant word of God and calling for the exposure of abuse hiding in the church and for the righting of injustice effected upon its victims is a friend whether they see eye to eye with us on every point.

  8. Laurie

    My oldest daughter was denied baptism in a conservative church. It was not because she didn’t have a genuine confession of faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ.

    It was because she didn’t have a good relationship with her abusive father.

    The “elders” basically told her to kiss the ground he (her dad) walked on and, after they observed her for awhile, they would reconsider her request for baptism.

    She was denied 3 times.

    They all currently embrace him as the hero in our situation, even though we “left” that church six years ago. Poor misunderstood man so abused by his unsubmissive wife…but they don’t know that HE left ME. The trouble is that I won’t let him back or move to where he is, because I know what he is and has done and don’t think the Gospel of Jesus Christ calls me to submit to another Gospel…one that DOESN’T let the captives go free, or heal the wounded or comfort those in any distress.

    Is it any wonder that people are leaving established churches in droves? Or that the unchurched see Christianity as pathetic?

    Remember, there will be a great falling away just before Antichrist, and the enemy is going to make war with those who have the testimony of Jesus, going to hunt the precious souls. That is what my marriage has felt like, being hunted…especially the spiritual abuse.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Laurie – excellent observations. How you were treated is indeed pathetic and cruel. There will be an accounting one day for such mistreatment of Christ’s flock.

  9. I’ve been thinking a lot about this post and why this concept gets me worked up- being a man clearly I have never been oppressed at the hand of male headship. I think I figured it out, though. There is a common pattern of misused logic here that I am very familiar with. In my own marriage:

    She does xyz that hurts me
    She loves me
    Love wouldn’t hurt me
    She does xyz
    Therefore, xyz doesn’t really hurt me.

    Yes, I believed this for years and years- it was only through therapy that I realized I was going down the road of believing pain was not pain so that I could still believe that I was loved.

    The similar pattern I see being asked to be accepted by women in marriages is:

    This dynamic is oppressive to me
    God loves me
    Love would not oppress me
    God desires this dynamic
    Therefore, this dynamic is not oppressive

    I say “this dynamic” because I think we can all agree that women are asked to accept unhealthy relational dynamics, even if we might disagree with what those are.

    This resonates with me so much because I understand how crazy making it is to try and make yourself believe what you experience isn’t real based on others telling you it cannot be true. We say that God does not oppress, and then redefine oppression to make reality fit our theology, and that hurts to people who have to live in that reality.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Jeff S – That 4th line, “God desires this dynamic” – is the false one, which you understand if I get what you are saying correctly. God does not desire this dynamic that is being passed off as biblical head/submission. I think Ella stated it very well —

      “Men are taught either explicitly, or by example that to be a leader means he has to be in charge of everybody, he gets to call the shots, he gets to control what everyone does or doesn’t do, and things have to go his way because he’s the boss!”

      And what we want churches and husbands and all Christians to hear is, “no this is not the leadership style Christ calls us to.” In fact, it is the very style that Jesus rejected when He told the disciples that His people were not to lord it over others as the Gentiles do. Ephesians 5 tells husbands to love, love, love and give, give, give to their wives. Peter tells elders not to shepherd Christ’s flock out of selfish motives.

      When Christ’s people, male or female, feel oppressed by their shepherds, something has gone way wrong.

      • Yes, you understand me correctly.

        The problem is when the church teaches “God desires this dynamic” because it is telling Women that the problem is THEM for feeling hurt, abused, or oppressed, when in reality God does not at all desire what is going on in the marriage. They are the ones who are expected to change and accept that oppression is not oppression. And I empathize with this because I know what it is to accept that what isn’t loving is loving.

      • I always felt like this:

        My husband is oppressing me
        God desires this
        God is oppressive
        God created me to be used . . .
        And down went everything.

        It took years for me to understand the freedom God desires for His daughters.

    • Laurie

      Amazing how we can make an irrational statement look like a good argument by surrounding it with rational statements.

    • Just Me

      Bingo! Our marriage counselor would say (with regards to my depression) “your feelings are controlled by your thoughts. If you don’t like what you’re feeling, change your thoughts.” I think what he meant was that I shouldn’t continually dwell on my husband’s bad actions. I instead took what he said to mean that the thoughts I had about my husband’s actions were incorrect. So, I would try to tell myself that his actions weren’t bad, but that my perceptions were incorrect. It made me crazy! I gaslighted myself. Who even knew that was possible? I was trying so hard to ignore my instincts. Those instincts would have saved me from this marriage if I had just listened to them while we were dating.

  10. I’d like to say something here I’ve been wanting to a long, long time:

    I know many, many women personally who feel strongly that women should be ordained as pastors and elders. I know many, many woman who feel just as strongly that women should *not* be ordained. Some of us aren’t sure how we feel on the issue of ordaining women, some don’t care, some care very much.

    Jeff stands firmly in the camp of those who do not ordain women as pastors and elders. That’s never been a secret for anyone who’s hung around the blog any length of time.

    But I would like to make one very important point. The fact that the Lord woke up someone from Jeff’s background on the subject of domestic abuse and got him so worked up on the subject that he’s writing books and throwing off blog posts like an over-heated fax machine is truly amazing. The fact that someone who’s Reformed Anything would champion the cause of women and stand firm in the face of those who’ve put all of us– men and women alike– into horrible bondage on the issues of divorce and remarriage? Miraculous.

    There are women imprisoned within the confines of doctrine and denominations *much* more conservative than the one Jeff belongs to who are scared spit-less to even glance at an article with the whiff of anything pro-woman. They will discount every single word written by anyone they consider to be feminist. Some of them will not even read an article written by a woman for fear of being infected by female rebellion or led astray like those weak and silly women they’ve been compared to all their lives. That is how they have been taught and they live in bondage and fear. Without someone like Jeff, from his solidly traditional background, preaching on this particular subject, they would have no one at all– no one– they can hear.

    This group of women from the ultra conservative circles have gone completely unreached for decades. If we care about these women at all, if we have any compassion for the abuse they suffer, the hell they face day by day, we must understand who they are and where they are coming from.

    So I’m asking those who think that ordaining women is essential to this issue to please take a step back and think a moment. I believe we must all obey God on this and do as we feel led. If you believe women should be ordained, then attend a church that agrees. If you don’t, then find a congregation that doesn’t.

    But on the issues of domestic abuse, domestic violence, divorce and remarriage, lets trust the Lord to call who He chooses to this battle and trust He has good reasons for the choosing. We can, each and every one of us, reach someone different. We are unique in our callings, unique in our backgrounds and truly unique in the field where we’ve been planted.

    Maybe one morning, Jeff will wake up with a giant Eureka! moment and start ordaining women all willy-nilly. (Doubtful but humorous mental picture nonetheless 🙂 )

    • I agree 100% Ida Mae- Jeff is certainly reaching a certain segment (not just women) who have sorely needed this ministry. Before this blog I was in a pretty dark place where I felt like I would pretty much have to abandon a whole set of my beliefs (maybe some that should go, but I hesitate to say all) just to find a people of faith that I could trust.

    • anon

      Thank you for these words Ida. Makes me realize how much i miss your writing:) This is definetly a case closed message.

    • Laurie

      Ida Mae, thank you for this post. I wish you could see the smile you put on my face. 🙂 Thanks for being who God made you to be, and being honest on this post.

    • Ida Mae,

      I agree so much with your conclusions that “if you believe women should be ordained, then attend a church that agrees. If you don’t then find a congregation that doesn’t.” Ultimately, we must “trust the Lord to call who He chooses to this battle.”

      Churches don’t fail in mission or function because of gender. They fail because of character. When it comes to character, both men and women have manifold, and unique, character flaws in the Bible. Being a man, I will illustrate from a position of authority with male issues. Men entering ministry often become merciless tyrants because they are unaware of man’s revealed nature to be lustful, power hungry, and driven by money [Just think Adam (apple), Noah (vineyard), Abraham (Terah), David (Bath-Sheba), Solomon (700 wives), and these were just a few good men]. Being a man, I strive always to be aware of MY unavoidable character flaws. The unrestrained fallen character of man in churches may be one of the biggest reasons for the existence of this blog or ministry.

      Women entering any kind of ministry also have their own unique set of character flaws revealed in Scripture to be aware of and manage. Those are best discussed by women, and it is edifying to see the discussions below illustrating uniquely female challenges. So we know any ministry, pastoral or otherwise, will not be blessed should it be run by an ungodly dictator – be they male or female living in unrestrained fallen character. I know of successful and blessed ministries run by Godly leaders – both male and female.

      Women in pastoral ministry becomes a very hard issue when it gets personal. My step-daughter, for example, came to me at 20 years old suggesting she may be called to pastoral ministry. That threw me into one of the deepest Scriptural and prayerful journeys of my life. I think my wife grew tired of me talking in my sleep as I wrestled with the issue without end. Finally, here’s what I said:

      “Daughter, I am so grateful that you are called to serve God. There are so many ways that you can serve Him, and I am so excited you feel He may be calling you to pastoral ministry. While there are Scriptures you will want to study about that [I actually directed her to resources which argue from Scripture on both sides of this issue], it is you and you alone that will stand before the Lord in judgment. This has to be your decision. Honor Him, glorify Him, and serve Him alone. In the end, daughter, you’ll have to weigh the Scriptures and decide for yourself. I will love you and support you regardless of your decision. I would even help you find a church where women in pastoral ministry are encouraged.”

      I meant what I said completely. I had to be willing to let her seek God with her heart through Scripture. Today, four years later, she is within one year of finishing her M.A. in Christian Counseling at a highly regarded American seminary. She will be a licensed professional counselor, and is at her best when she is on fire to help people – one victim at a time. If she had gone forward, or ever does go forward, with a call to pastoral ministry, I will love her and support her as I would any brother or sister in Christ.

      While Jeff may have the most literal interpretation of Scripture in his position, and it also happens to be the position with which I humbly agree, we must recognize that we are all equal, and individual, before the Lord. I am not proud of my daughter because she made the decision with which I agree, I am proud that she is making decisions by Scripture and prayer under the umbrella of God’s unconditional love.

      Thanks for sharing your perspective on this. It bought to mind this a difficult but rewarding episode in our family.

      In Christ,

      Martin.

      • Thanks for sharing this story from your family, Martin. Can I say that I really appreciate the gentle handling of your step daughter. Its before our own Master that we stand or fall.

        So many times people lay down the law based on their own convictions and the recipient hardens up just to show them. Giving her the guidance you did shows genuine male leadership at its finest.

      • And thanks right back to you for that story, Martin. This is the kind of stuff we all benefit from hearing, I think. Wrestling, struggling, and remaining humble in wherever we end up. Oh, and I agree with everything Ida Mae said too.

  11. Dear all, I want to weep and hug you! (it’s okay, fellas, it’s only a collective hug)
    And especially Ida Mae. You are my hero right this moment. Or make that heroine.

    Wherever each of us stands on women in leadership in churches, we all want to stop domestic violence and abuse. And we are all against the wooden, obstinate, foolish, ignorant, pharisaic, wicked, stereotyped, blinded, unbiblical mindsets that are promoting and condoning abuse in Christian circles.

    For myself, I am yet to be convinced that this wrongdoing will be easily solved by putting women into formal leadership in churches. Women in church leadership can be haughty, judgmental, and power-abusing. It’s not solely a sin of men. Women can believe that divorce is not allowed for abuse (I suffered under one female pastor who told me this). Women can be focused on their personal ambition and aggrandizement, just as men can. Women can be devoted to impression management just as men can. Women can be recruited as allies of abusers, just as men can. Women can think they know it all about abuse, just as men can. Women leaders can be as unteachable as male leaders. Now, I don’t want to get into discussing the comparative likelihood of each sex having these faults, I’m only talking very broad brush. But my observations thus far have not convinced me that making church leadership egalitarian will be a great panacea for domestic abuse. Abuse is far more complicated and conniving and entrenched than that.

    While I know some people are concerned about the issue of women in leadership in churches, for myself I get much more upset about the issue of domestic abuse. I don’t criticise those who take different positions on this issue, and I’m humbled by the fact that over the years I’ve taken different positions myself, and am still subject to change.

    But for me, the question is this. Which is more hurtful and unjust: refusing a woman ordination or eldership? Or making her believe that she should endure from her husband perennial and wicked violations of her physical and emotional safety, her sexuality, her privacy, her individuality, her conscience, her psyche and her very soul? In my humble opinion, these are not things of the same order. I prefer to prioritize domestic abuse over the question of formal female leadership in churches, and maintain sweet fellowship despite our differences over lesser issues, while keeping up the battle on the main front.

    Not to discount the contributions of Joe and Jeff S, I am very conscious of the fact as a woman I have been delighted to find a male and a pastor (!) who sees eye to eye with me on the question of domestic abuse. This is such an answer to prayer!

    To my mind, Jeff is demonstrating a kind of servant-hearted, morally-muscular masculinity that the church needs, whether it be the egal or the comp stream of the church. (sorry for that alliteration!)

    Society will not really make a dent on domestic violence until non-abusive men make domestic violence their business. And that is true in the church just as much as it’s true for the wider society.
    And whatever their gender, we need people in leadership who are really awake to the evils of domestic abuse.

  12. Laurie

    Haughty women…Barbara, I agree with you. And some women who appear to be “submitted” can really be running the church by their attitudes. I asked a very leader type of female about her husband, did he ever try to bully her? She said she would never allow it. I asked her on what grounds to which she replied that her daddy told her she didn’t have to let a man lead her.

    I had a real problem with that.

    She had nothing to help me with, because she was more…uh, femi-nazi, in her attitude toward men which doesn’t help women who have had their godly desires set to be the Proverbs 31 woman, in obedience and under submission (which is an oxymoron). No scriptures. No help from God’s word. Just politics.

    We need Jesus to be able to have free expression in HIS church, however He chooses.

    • Bethany

      Jeff,
      My husband and I have been married for 7 years. He is bipolar and loves to use this as an excuse for his actions [he can’t get a job, he can’t help spending all our money, he can’t tolerate the children, he can’t clean, he can’t cook, ect.] I spent all my time worrying about him and his needs and neglecting all of mine, so much so that when he was arrested for beating me my biggest concern was that he has a place to stay. I knew he couldn’t stay with me or the children, at least not for a time, so I asked our pastor to take him in. When the pastor asked if there was anything he could do for me I said “No I have the house and I can watch the kids, He needs someone right now I don’t want him on the street.”
      I know now that I was speaking from a brainwashed mind and I wish to God that the pastor had not followed my advice. I was the one who needed an understanding pastor and a church congregation, but I gave it up for him and the pastor let it happen!
      Sometimes it’s not what the pastor says to the victim it’s what the pastor doesn’t say. He didn’t say “Bethany you are wrong! Your husband doesn’t need to be coddled by me and the church. You and the children need love and support right now.” I wish my pastor new to look out for a very disturbed victims needs. I still don’t have a Church and my husband is still living with at pastor, turning him against me by spinning the story and apologizing for his behavior. The pastor wants us to get back to gather now and I can’t help but think it would all be different if I didn’t ask the pastor to care for him not me.

      • Bethany, I did the same thing when I separated from my first husband for the final time.
        I rang one of the church elders (there was no pastor; only eight elders in that church) and told him “I’ve applied for a protection order against M and he’s been put out of the home by the police. I think it’s time you [the elders] showed him some support.”

        What I did not understand at the time was I should not have used the word “support.” I should have said “It’s time you made him accountable.” But I did not know the right word to use.

        My then husband had been ‘born again’ (said the sinner’s prayer) about a year before that. He had been welcomed to the church as a new believer, but then the elders did not show any more interest in him: no-one discipled him; no-one followed up on him one-on-one; no one wanted to help him learn the ropes of Christianity. He just slid away more and more as that year went on. Now, I’m not blaming the elders for it all: I think if my husband had been genuinely converted he would have grown regardless. And I now think his ‘conversion’ was not a real conversion, only an emotional experience and a bunch of wishful hopes and flimsy intentions. But be that as it may, the elders certainly did nothing in that twelve months to foster his walk as a baby Christian.

        But when I said to the elders, “I think it’s time you showed him some support,” they took him – poor homeless man that he was – into their homes and gave him hospitality for many weeks. And during those weeks they were putting pressure on me to take some responsibility for the marriage breakup and were relaying to me the lies he spoke to them about the events that led me to seek a protection order against him. And they did not seem to notice that his words were dishonest – that he kept changing his story to make himself seem more innocent – whereas my story was always the same.

        I lost all trust with them when they made a special announcement to the congregation about our marriage breakup – an announcement which condemned me but did not condemn him at all. Sadly, I am still not reconciled with those elders to this day, and it’s not for want of me trying to address the issue with them. Another church bites the dust …

      • Laurie

        I asked one of his brothers to have personal counselling sessions with him. That brother never did, but the whole fellowship has listened to his complaints about me without knowing the other side of the story. They are talking trash about me, in a very Christian way–in other words, religious terrorism.

      • Good expression. So we have domestic terrorism, and then when we flee that, we get religious terrrorism as well.

    • G

      Please do not use the term feminazi. Wanting equality is not equivalent to committing mass genocide.
      Like many feminists, I used to be against feminism and saw it as unnecessary.
      Years of being treated like my opinion doesn’t count and that I shouldn’t worry my cute little head about tricky issues has hardened me and made me understand why feminists come across this way.
      I’m glad there are men like Jeff who will speak on our behalf to other men, as we simply will not be listened to.
      But that is the real problem. We aren’t viewed as equal or as having anything valuable to contribute. Writing someone off as a feminazi simply compounds the problem.

  13. I thank each one for your thoughts and interactions. For 17 years in FOCUS Ministries, I have found the church minimizing the abuse, not acknowledging the power/control issues, and pushing for forgiveness and reconciliation. The distortion of the meaning of submission and headship is used as a hammer to condemn and keep women and children hostage to the abuser. I have seen churches empower the abuser as they place the total responsibility of the marriage on the wife’s shoulders. Women want the approval of their church leaders so much that they sacrifice themselves to obtain it. One women I counseled who was experiencing all forms of abused and had been physically abused severely was told not to call authorities on her spouse because that could ruin his reputation. the tried everything to work within the restrictions of her church leadership to be seen as cooperative. The church told her she should not leave nor seek a divorce. If she did they would withdraw their “support”. I did not hear from her for a while, but she called one day ecstatic with news. Her spouse was with another woman. Because of adultery, they gave her the stamp of approval to divorce. It grieved me deeply. It was truly a miracle that the woman did not die in the process of seeking approval. She thought getting their approval was getting approval from God.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Paula- you just sommarized the main message of our upcoming book! Excellent. Thank you for your work and voice in exposing all the injustice. We welcome you here to A Cry for Justice.

    • Hi Paula, glad to see you have come to our blog! Welcome. I’ve been aware of your ministry for sometime and have read the book you co-authored with Brenda Branson. There is so much injustice in the church regarding this issue. We are glad you have been fighting this cause. Seventeen years! That means you started working on it in 1995. Well done for your staying power and perseverance.

  14. Bethany

    Barbara, thank you for your kind words and sharing your story with me. I was blinded at the time to how bad my abuse was and I cared only that my “poor, sick, father of my children” not be on the streets. during my “awakening” I have since relized that I was wrong, but the pastor has not. I am happy to see that I am not the only one who has felt this way. I just hope that oneday our pastors and elders will be wise enugh to not listen to tramitized wives when they are asking for such things.

  15. sally

    A religion that endorses a master/slave relationship for.marriage just doesn’t sit.well with me. That’s why I left Christianity. Marriage.should be.about equality and love-not.domination.and.submission. o believe.on freedom for.all-not.just.men!!

    • Jeff Crippen

      Sally -nor does it sit well with me. Even more, it does not sit well with Christ. I am sorry that the Christianity you were exposed to was of that ilk. Believe me, I am fully aware, as are all of us here at ACFJ, that these terrible, abusive and wicked distortions of Christ abound. But Christ is truth and He is freedom. Right now I am preaching a sermon series entitled The Religion of the Pharisees and you can listen to it at sermonaudio.com/crc — look under the sermon series titles to find it. There is also a 21 part series there on domestic violence and what Christ has to say about that.

      Thanks for visiting here and commenting. We hope you will be a regular!

  16. For My Daughter's Sake

    Thank you so much for sharing the link to “Distortions and Abuses of Male
    Headship1″(http://www.reclaimingthemind.org/papers/ets/2005/Tracy/Tracy.pdf)
    This has got to be one of the best explanations regarding male headship and women, that I have ever read. Beautifully written, and expertly and soundly supported!!!
    This author has made clear for me why and how abuse has ever been tolerated, and covered by the church.

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