A Cry For Justice

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

A Typical Horror Story from an Old Box of Church Records

Prepare to be freaked out:

When a separation has taken place by the desertion of one spouse, the other is not automatically free to marry someone else. Paul’s counsel is to remain unmarried or be reconciled. The primary point is that reconciliation of a divided couple is always God’s will, not the seeking for someone who is a more compatible match. [From a study of divorce and remarriage by the board members and pastor of Idaville Bible Church, Tillamook, Oregon, 1986].

I have been the pastor of Christ Reformation Church (once known as Idaville Bible Church) for 20 years now. Not long after I came here, I was nosing through some old church records that were stuffed away in boxes in an attic. I couldn’t read them for very long. I saw turnover after turnover of pastors and I myself was in the midst of efforts to drive me away at that time. Recently, in cleaning out the old records, our church secretary found a file labeled “Divorce and Remarriage – Special Study by the Deacon Board.” Yikes! I checked it out. The above quote is taken from it.

Here are some more things I found. This is the typical stuff that turns into a horror story for victims of abuse who are Christians and who go to their pastor and church body for help.

There is a six page document, single-spaced, entitled “A General Biblical Perspective of Divorce and Remarriage.” This document is a summation of the study these deacons did, and which states the position that they no doubt enforced upon their flock:

Their reading of Matthew 19:9 in conjunction with Matthew 5:32-33 and Mark 10:2-12 and Luke 16:18 led them to conclude that:

…though divorce may be a possibility in certain circumstances [i.e., they say ONLY for adultery], pursuing reconciliation and restoration of a damaged marriage [“damaged marriage” is an example of rank minimization] has the foremost priority.  With this in mind, when evaluating divorce from Christ’s perspective:

  1. Divorce can be pursued in instances when one’s mate is rebellious and will not deal with nor repent of philandering and immoral sexual behavior. [Note the minimizing word they chose, “philandering”]. A one-night stand or an affair [MINIMIZING again, boys!] are not immediate grounds for divorce according to Christ’s choice of the word PORNEIA in the exception clause of Matthew 19:9. Persistent efforts at reconciliation and redemption are the offended mate’s first order of responsibility [WHAT??? THE RESPONSIBILITY LIES WITH THE VICTIM??] when dealing with an unfaithful marriage partner [Let’s see, would that be the same thing as what the Bible calls an adulterer who shall not enter the kingdom of God?].

  2. Irreconcilable differences, lack of happiness, feeling unfulfilled, or anger, etc., are not biblical grounds for divorce. Divorce, within biblical confines, is only a concession to men’s hardened hearts. It is not a course to be pursued quickly, easily, nor with indifference or out of hostility. [Notice the COMPLETE ignorance of the very existence of abuse. It isn’t even mentioned here. Clueless, clueless, clueless].

So, hey everybody! Unless your spouse commits adultery and adultery and adultery, you are out of luck. Hmmm, I wonder if they would say this also applies to a husband who sexually molests a child? I guess if he just did it once, then it is the responsibility of his wife to fix things and keep him around.

Now, here is what I think is the worst part of the whole mess. I also found included in this file two letters. One is addressed to a faculty member of a theological seminary, and the other to a faculty member of a Bible college. Why did they write to these professors? Because, well, listen to it from their own pen:

We are writing to request input from you in regards to a recent study on divorce and remarriage which our church board has undertaken. Though we have unity regarding acceptable biblical grounds for divorce, we are unsettled in coming to a consensus regarding the issue of remarriage for the Christian.

Like soooo many church leaders, these men still couldn’t agree. Oh, they agreed on the erroneous conclusion they made about divorce only being permissible for HABITUAL adultery, but they couldn’t agree on the remarriage issue. In other words, they couldn’t agree. So what did they do? They ran to “the experts” who for the most part only manage to crank out books that don’t agree with one another either!

Yes, divorce and remarriage in the Bible are not easy subjects. But WHY then do so many church leaders, like this board of deacons, insist that they are going to come to a position, even though it differs from the positions of many other “experts,” and then enforce it upon poor victims? Even to the point of ex-communicating them?

Oh, and there is one final document in this file. The title is instructive:

An Attempted Harmonizing of Jesus’ Teaching on Divorce

I must pronounce this “attempt” an utter failure, and send this file to the shredder where it belongs.

Go back to the shadow. You shall not pass! [Gandalf to the big ugly whatever in the caves]


  1. Jeff it is exhausting to think of the huge number of churches in history who oppressed people in this manner. God have mercy on all of us 😦 That letter at the end of Barbara’s book – the conversation between the woman suffering horrendous abuse from her evil husband and the response from Calvin(?) – just horrific.

  2. Barnabasintraining

    Like soooo many church leaders, these men still couldn’t agree.

    You know, when you realize that marriage is made for mankind and not mankind for marriage, and when you let the Lord of the Sabbath be the Lord of the marriage covenant, all these things suddenly become much easier to solve.

    Just sayin.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Absolutely, BIT- Why can’t they just leave it alone? If we would concern ourselves with just dealing with habitual, unrepentant, Pharisaical hypocritical sin that creeps in amongst the flock unnoticed, expose it and insist upon repentance from it, most everything else would be taken care of. A person who is knowingly, willfully, sinfully destroying their marriage covenant and who claims to be a Christian is the person we as a church should be dealing with. But when it comes to whether or not a person can separate from and divorce their spouse, and that person shows no evidence of habitual, ongoing, unrepentant evil themselves, then we need to let that person make the decision themselves before God. The Lord of the Sabbath is capable of letting His sheep know if they can go to the mall on the Lord’s Day. And He is quite capable of letting sheep know if they can made an exodus from an oppressive marriage.

      • AJ

        I am appreciating so much you and Barbara and everyone else who contributes here. Church leadership is critical, as I navigate my own divorce I have had both, support and criticism. Specifically my head pastor and his wife are very defensive of the stay married and get couples Counselling position so they have trouble with the steps I’m taking. I found out yesterday in church she has chosen to study the Demoss book with the young moms. It was so easy to come to the blog and quickly find out why the hair on the back of my neck stood up looking through the workbook. Just wanted to say thanks again for all the work you do and how you pastor us.

      • Jeff Crippen

        AJ- You are very welcome. You all are a real encouragement to me as well. It really is pretty cool, isn’t it, how through the cooperative efforts of all of us here, including all the commenters, that there now exists a large resource that quickly validates a victim’s feelings on something like the DeMoss books.

      • oppressedwife

        That was some find, Jeff. I have some ideas to your question, “Why can’t they just leave it alone? ”

        Because they like to see themselves as leaders with all knowledge. Many people in their assumed positions of authority think they need to have all the answers. They wrongly assume that when one doesn’t have all the answers, they are thought of as “weak.” This is called pride.

        Because they are part of a system that does not value women or their feelings.

        Because they are obsessed with the letter of the law, not looking at the full picture of God – – that He defends the oppressed.

      • Jeff Crippen

        Oppressed wife – BINGO!

    • Heather 2

      Amen! So true!

    • Forrest

      Excellent point, BIT!!!

    • Barnabasintraining

      I do feel I should point out that this is directed to those theologians and other church leaders, not to anyone being abused who is struggling with their own convictions on whether God allows them to leave an abusive marriage. I don’t mean to cause any collateral damage!

  3. Heather 2

    I’ve often wondered if any of these churches would volunteer to financially support women who listen to their advice and remain separated from their husbands. Would they support her and her children indefinitely? I’d love to know if that has happened.

    The burden they place on the hurting and confused victims is just appalling. We need to understand that we answer to The Lord.

    Thank you, Jeff, for another meaningful article.

  4. Anonymous

    Interesting that God ran off all those previous “p”astors, but the truth bearer is still there after 20 years! Way to go, Pastor C.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Oh, don’t give me too much credit! I have wanted to leave from the first week I got here! But the Lord has never permitted me to. Many, many times my wife and I have wanted to pack it in. The enemy is ALWAYS at work trying to undermine and deceive and destroy and divide.

      • fiftyandfree

        When I look back at how things unfolded for me (I unknowingly married a wolf in sheep’s clothing) and the way the church compounded my pain and assisted my abuser in holding me captive for 12 years, I think “horror story” is an accurate description.

  5. Reblogged this on Speakingtruthinlove's Blog.

  6. thepersistentwidow

    This time capsule found at Jeff’s church paints the scenario of the how the divorce debate is still played out today. Their conclusions from 1986, are the same as those of my previous church, last year. These are people who don’t have any idea of what the Bible really says about the subject, or what to do, yet these are the ones that people have to go to for help. I think that things have gotten worse because now, if they add a John Piper book into the whole mess, the elder’s feel validated in offering this terrible counsel. I am at the point that I would advise an abuse victim to not go to the church for help, or if one does, be ready to detach from that church at the first thought of their counsel endangering you. It is not worth trying to please such legalistic people, and it is impossible unless you do everything they say. The bottom line is that they don’t have the wisdom or knowledge to advise anyone. They truly do not know what they are doing. But it’s not their life affected by their ‘scholarship’, it’s yours, and I think that is why they just don’t care that much about it.

    • Heather 2

      Yes, I have reached the same conclusion myself! Good post!

    • Jeff Crippen

      PW- you nailed it. Your advice is exactly what victims need to follow. The men who did the 1986 “study” that I found were, for the most part, totally unqualified for such a task. Their pastor had training, but he was schooled by the standard conservative theological schools that promote a very wooden and stiffly literal hermeneutic (interpretive method). For all their study, the end result was a disaster.

  7. thepersistentwidow

    When I went to the church for help, I thought they were trained in what to do, both theologically and procedurally. It would be like calling 911 and assuming that the paramedics have training and competence to deal with the crisis. Who would question their credentials while in the back of the ambulance? The pastor acted as if he knew what to do. He had no reservations in getting involved. I knew that he was trained at a prestigious seminary, and assumed that he would act responsibly. I trusted these people, but all they did was undermine our safety, and somewhere in the fog of their abuse, I realized that they did not know what they were doing. They always made decisions that protected their own best interests and safety- that they did well. It seems that the church is also not trained in confidentiality, so don’t assume that what you discuss with them won’t be passed on to your abuser or others in the church. They are shockingly unprofessional. This time capsule gives us a glimpse of how clueless these people really are. I wish I knew then what I know now.

    • Jeff Crippen

      PW – “They are shockingly unprofessional.” I have found this to be the case with sooo many pastors. Unlike, say, medical professionals who are bound to certain ethical standards, pastors are under no such authority. Oh, those who are part of a formal denomination appear to have some accountability, but it is really minimal. Repeatedly I have found that if I contact a pastor and, for example, tell him “that guy who is now attending your church was confronted by us for abuse,” the pastor will blow me off and most often run right to the man in question and tell him that I phoned, thus enraging him against me even more. The last pastor I contacted, some years ago in just such a case was a PCA pastor, so he was part of a formal denomination – yet who am I to go to and complain anyway? They won’t listen. Abuse victims can therefore count on one scenario in so many cases when they go to their church leaders for help — 1) They will be blown off, the situation will be minimized, and 2) their abuser and others will be told that the victim is the problem.

      Here is what you can count on — people will side with the power. Whether actively or by just standing by doing nothing, they will side with the person who has power, control, assets, and who can cause them the most trouble and loss if they stand against him. That’s how it works in this world. It isn’t supposed to work that way in the church, but then, just how many churches are really churches when it comes right down to it?

      But let’s never forget, there is another Person watching the whole thing go down. He is watching and He sees it all. The oppressor and man of violence who sheds the blood of the weak and needy is the one who should fear because the Almighty is set against him, His arrow is in the bow and the bow is drawn (and there is no safety lever), pointed right at his heart.

      2Ch 14:11 And Asa cried to the LORD his God, “O LORD, there is none like you to help, between the mighty and the weak. Help us, O LORD our God, for we rely on you, and in your name we have come against this multitude. O LORD, you are our God; let not man prevail against you.”

      Psa 72:12-14 For he delivers the needy when he calls, the poor and him who has no helper. (13) He has pity on the weak and the needy, and saves the lives of the needy. (14) From oppression and violence he redeems their life, and precious is their blood in his sight.

      • Heather 2

        I confided in my friend from church who told me that whatever I decided to do she would support me. We called our young pastor. I shared it all with him.
        I soon learned that their words meant nothing. My ex was loved. He told me how much he needed his church family. Meanwhile, I was ignored, avoided, or attacked.

        Sad but true. I chose to never go back. My pastor, though appearing sympathetic, was very busy getting his doctorate. My ex is still there. I have since remarried and relocated half way around the world. And I still find those triggers unsettle me.

        Heavy sigh…..

      • Jeff Crippen

        Heather2 – PhD’s trump all else, right? Hey, I have to tell you, I like it! You moved half way around the world! You may be finding you still get triggered (and who wouldn’t!), but at least you took action steps to remove the ongoing trauma from your life as much as you could.

      • Heather 2

        Triggers, Jeff!!!! One just happened this morning. I will no longer hide. Hence, I have shared some posts on Facebook and have said that what was within was my experience too. I changed my setting to friends of friends can read. I will no longer hide, and if it offends anyone, including my children, I cannot help that. I will finally walk in the truth of my life!

        Being in Europe doesn’t change my heart, but I no longer am reminded by familiar places, people, etc. However, just because I have gone No Contact doesn’t mean that pictures my kids post of their father doesn’t intrude and affect me deeply. They hurt! So, I have now chosen to be more visible. If their friends read the Cry for Justice blog articles that I share, maybe they will start to think. Maybe, just maybe, someone will be helped.

        I guess I’m sort of coming out of the closet. I will no longer sanitizer my ex, my former church, or my story.

      • Barnabasintraining

        The last pastor I contacted, some years ago in just such a case was a PCA pastor

        Jeff, I thought I heard somewhere along the line that the PCA put out a statement that abuse is biblical grounds for divorce. Do you (or anyone) know if that is right? Because it doesn’t seem much like it from boots on the ground reports.

      • Jeff Crippen

        BIT – Yes, they did. It was advisory only, but it did in fact conclude that abuse is grounds for divorce. We have it here on the blog someplace – Barbara put the link in an article. If we don’t have it on the resources page, we should. Maybe try a search? I will too.

      • Jeff Crippen

        BIT – I found it, PCA Study It is in our blog post entitled Abuse and 1 Corinthians 7 Desertion.

      • Just as an FYI, my experience with the PCA here in Atlanta had been very good across multiple churches. My pastor absolutely recognizes divorce for emotional abuse (which goes beyond the PCA paper which specifies physical).

        I think like any they denomination there are going to be good churches and bad churches, but thus far my experience in Atlanta has been quite good. I have heard horror stories of other PCA churches in nearby states.

      • Barnabasintraining

        Thanks Jeff.

      • thepersistentwidow

        BIT, I have filed a formal grievance with the PCA Presbytery citing the position paper recently. We will see what the PCA thinks about this issue through their response.

      • Barnabasintraining

        BIT, I have filed a formal grievance with the PCA Presbytery citing the position paper recently. We will see what the PCA thinks about this issue through their response.

        I’d be very interested in their response and whether they will put their money where their mouth is!

  8. wow Heather. That is stunning. What man laughs in the face of a woman who is being put in a headlock by her husband?
    These young pastors coming out of conservative seminaries are so immature and foolish. 😦

    • Jeff Crippen

      Katy – the kind of man who does the same thing to his wife.

  9. Barnabasintraining

    This sounds like a profoundly bad situation, Heather. I’m glad the other men are having a problem with this guy and that it’s most of them is really good.

    My husband wants to give him more time

    Nothing against your husband, but I have come to completely hate this “give him more time” attitude. I see it a lot myself and it is bogus.

    And now for a BIT rant, speaking generally here about this attitude and aiming at no one in particular.

    There is nothing to give more time to. This “pastor” or any other pastor like this is not in some kind of flux where he sees his error and is trying to change but isn’t awesome at it yet. There is nothing to give more time to except the same thing you’ve already given (probably too much) time to, because that’s all you’re going to see. He isn’t going to “outgrow” this any time soon, if he ever does, and it is a grave error to force people you care about and are actually responsible for — your family — to endure such things on the vague, vacuous “hope” he’s going to change simply because that would be your preference. What you see is what you get and are going to keep getting. Either confront or get out. And if you confront, do so with the full expectation you will fail to retrieve this errant person and plan to get out. Because 99 out of 100 this guy already sees you and people like you as the problem that he has to solve in his congregation. He thinks you are the one who needs retrieving and has set himself to conquer you, for God, of course. Ahem. Stand up and be a man. Either tell this guy no more and sit on his head until he cries uncle and means it or take your family and leave and make sure he knows why. Either way you must reject his tyranny in the strongest possible terms available to you.

    End rant.

    • Jeff Crippen

      BIT – We love your rants!

    • Barnabasintraining

      That’s good! Because I can’t keep my mouth shut yet I live ever in fear of the comfy chair!

      Or…er…wait… 🙂

  10. fiftyandfree

    What does PCA stand for?

    I think the Assembly of God Church has a fairly compassionate view on divorce. I went to see one of it’s pastors a few months before I finally filed and while he fell short of advising me to get divorced, and he didn’t really validate my belief that the ex was abusive, he did tell me that “fraud” was a grounds for divorce and that the vows were not valid in situations in which one spouse was deceived/defrauded. (My ex presented himself as a Born Again Christian, but he most certainly was not).

    Jeff, where can I find your email address?

    • Jeff Crippen

      50Free – PCA stands for Presbyterian Church in America and is the largest conservative Presbyterian denomination I believe. The PCUSA is probably larger? but quite liberal. And yes, I read an interview recently that discussed the AOG broadening its understanding of biblical reasons to divorce, so that abuse is included. Good move.


      • fiftyandfree

        Thanks Jeff. I’ll email you my question. Also, could you link that article by AOG. I read something of that nature once but I can’t seem to find it in my bookmarks or files.

      • I think you are referring to the fact that in 2007 the AOG in Australia decided that abuse was grounds for divorce. You can read about it here

      • The PC(USA) is MUCH larger than the PCA, like 4 times as big if I recall correctly. However, the PC(USA) is in decline while the PCA is growing, if I am not mistaken.

        I am a member of a PCA church and my sister is an elder at a PC(USA) church.

    • Jeff C’s email address can be found in the About tab at the top of this blog.

  11. Bridget

    Heather, or anyone –

    Does anyone know much about that “Love and Respect” book? It is being pushed at our church and just, from the brief synopsis an elder gave me of the book, it raised red flags. It seems to divide and separate men into one box and women into another. I don’t care for simple this/that scenarios as they don’t lend themselves to the variety and combinations I see in God’s creation. Besides shouldn’t BOTH men and women give and receive love and respect?

    Eds. note: Mark Baker has a 12-page PDF that exposes the biblical error of the Love & Respect book by Eggerich.

    And another review that exposes Eggerichs’ errors: Love, Respect, and Proof Texts.

    • I know someone who read this book as part of marriage counseling and she said it was awful. She used to use a mocking tone to describe how all she had to do was be respectful and her husband would start treating her nicely.

      I’ve also heard it discussed on other blogs who had bad things to say about it.

      I have not read it myself, but I personally wouldn’t read it. If it became a small group study text, for example, I’d sit out for a few weeks. I wouldn’t be surprised if I found out some people at my church regarded it highly, though.

    • Barnabasintraining

      Lots of useful 1 star reviews at Amazon


  12. Bridget

    Jeff –

    Well, I’m vacillating with reading/not reading. Reading, which is hard to do with an open mind at this point, to know what it actually says so as to be “informed” when someone suggests I read it. Not reading would be not wanting to spend my money on something that I won’t want to pass on to others.

    I’m finding it hard to engage at my church at all these days 😦 Every bible study seems to end up in a discussion about roles and women vs. men discussions. It’s a hard spot to be in when you’re the one with differing perspectives. You tend to sit with your mouth shut.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Bridget – Reading can be difficult, but I found that if we can find the right material, it is a huge, huge help. Our resources page on this blog has some good ones. Bancroft, Why Does He do That? is the place to start. If you have suffered in a church setting, then my book addresses that scenario and Barbara’s book deals with the typical “you can’t divorce for abuse because God hates divorce” issue, as well as other aspects of the thing. Please remember this: God’s Word says that Christ’s true sheep are ONE. That we HAVE fellowship with one another. That we are one body, indwelt and taught by the same Spirit. So when we find that sense of oneness is lacking, we have to ask ourselves, “why?” In many cases it is because the great eminent “Christians” around us, aren’t.

  13. I just want to salute the secretary at Jeff C’s church who has been going through all the old boxes of files as part of a general cleanup of the church’s store room. I don’t know whether she was part of finding this gem from archives (gem as in an example of appalling decisions made by leaders) but if she was, thanks so much!

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