A Cry For Justice

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

We would love more pastors to be interested in learning about domestic abuse

Pastors: we would love to have more pastors reading and commenting on our blog.  So many of them are A.W.O.L. when it comes to abuse issues. And domestic abuse sees to be the worst. More churches have policies and protocols for child sexual abuse and clergy sexual abuse than for domestic abuse. (And I mean no offence to those valiant Christians who are trying to get churches to respond better to child abuse and clergy sexual abuse.)

Jeff Crippen discussed the issue of pastors’ lack of interest in a comment he wrote in December 2012. One of our readers, Summer, recently mentioned how helpful she found that comment of Jeff”s and how she wished it had more prominence on the blog. So — here it is again in a post all on its own. Thanks for prompting this, Summer!  🙂

Jeff Crippen says:

As a pastor now for 30 years, as a pastor who has studied abuse for about 4 years — more than studied it, I have lived and breathed it. I have spoken to a few churches. We have written a book. Barbara has written a book. We have emailed pastors and churches and para-church organizations. I have written an open letter to pastors that has gone round the web. I have announced to the fellowship of churches that our church belongs to that there is abuse hiding in our churches, that victims are being dealt horrid injustice, and that we have written books and I have asked these pastors and elders to read those books. We began this blog in February 2012 and I live for hours on it almost every single day. Today I went to watch the Hobbit and checked on the blog 3 times during the movie. Two days ago I spent over an hour on the phone with an abuse victim and that is a typical and frequent activity of mine. We write personal emails in response to those that are sent directly to us from confused, hurting victims. And I find this ministry to victims of abuse, especially Christians, incredibly rewarding. They are the most grateful bunch of people I have ever ministered to. YOU are the most grateful bunch of people I have ever ministered to.

But guess who I almost never hear from. Guess who, even within our own fellowship of churches, that I have heard virtually nothing from in response to the fact that we have written a vital, important book that affects every single one of them. Pastors. Ask Dale and Faith Ingraham about it in their ministry [Speaking Truth In Love] to try to expose sexual abuse in churches. What have they found? A giant wall. Denial. Hiding. Blowing victims off. That is why we are seeing victims starting to sue their churches. Because finally people are saying “enough!”

You see, we have tried to be heard by pastors and church leaders and denominational leaders. Oh believe me, how we have tried. And you know what we have found with very rare exception? (And there are some exceptions). We have been met with denial. With “hey, I don’t want to hear about that stuff.” Or, “Oh yeah, in the past 20 years I have had a case or two of abuse in my church, but we handled it just fine, no problem.”

So let me add this observation learned the hard, hard way — if anyone thinks that there are just tons of pastors and church leaders out there who are simply not knowledgeable about abuse and that they really would desire to know the truth if someone would just come along and tactfully and kindly explain the facts to them, then I have to tell you that you are dreaming. How many of our readers, having suffered terribly from abuse, went to their pastors and church leaders and sought help and found that all they needed to do was explain what was happening and here came the Cavalry with trumpet sounding the charge to their rescue? You know the answer. It is these victims, you see, that we speak for here.

What we are in this ministry for the most part is more akin to the Old Testament prophets going to the people of Israel and announcing “there is sin here among the people of God!” So perhaps one of the things we need to do is change our byline at the top of our blog page to “awakening the evangelical church to the sin that is hiding in the camp and calling for repentance.” You see, the pattern in God’s Word has always been, first repentance of sin, THEN instruction in the ways of the Lord. But where there is no repentance, neither will there be acceptance of God’s Word.

The fact is, as the experiences of our victim/survivor/readers proves all too clearly, that the Christian church of our day is in a sad condition. Many, many local churches are abuser friendly and even sin friendly. And the people love it so. That is why so many of you here are “outside the camp” when you finally step up and say “that is enough. This isn’t right.” So you make your exodus from abuse and you are put out of your church formally or informally as a result while your abuser remains a member in good standing. Do I exaggerate? No way.

So this has been my journey, you see. It has been Barbara’s and it has been Megan’s and Jeff Ss’ and Martin’s [and all the others that have joined our team and the blog family since these words were first written]. It began in most all of our cases with “surely these pastors and Christians and churches will listen to our case, their eyes will be opened, and they will wake up and do right.” Over time, we found that such is just not the case.

How do we proceed then? We keep crying for justice. Louder and louder and louder. We help abuse victims get free of the abuse that they are experiencing not only at the hands of a domestic or sexual abuser, but at the hands of their own churches. We validate and vindicate them. We say “you are right. You have been wronged. What was done to you should never, ever have happened. You are not crazy, and you are not damned by God for divorcing your tormentor.”

And if, along the way, we happen to find a pastor here or there or a Christian or a church elder or a seminary professor who will listen, who comes with honest questions (and we have a few of those right now that we are communicating with), then we praise Christ for it. We will honestly and sincerely and kindly deal with their questions and direct them to good resources. They won’t get hammered.

May the Lord bless and keep each one of you, and us, and guide us into His truth and His will. And may He work mightily to open the eyes of His church, of the true shepherds of His church. May He sustain the many, many oppressed victims who are suffering right now and lead them out of their Egypt. May He smite wicked abusers who will not repent and prevent them from hurting anyone else. And may He in His might and incredible mercy, even lead an abuser here and there to genuine repentance. Amen!

23 Comments

  1. Chris

    Keep crying for justice. Your voices are being heard, and more pastors (albeit a few) are listening and asking better questions. I appreciate and share this ministry often, I’ve not been very good at staying in contact though. Sorry. I’d like to share one blessing with you and ask for prayer. On January 14th I’ll be partnering with our local sherrif’s dept to host a domestic violence training for clergy in our area. When the deputy asked me help I was excited but sceptical because I have had little success with pastors as well. But, as we approach the date we have a dozen local pastors attending along with our prosecutor, sherrif, shelter workers, victim fund coordinators and our family law judge. Please pray with us that these pastors will hear and respond to the heart of God, and for the potential partnerships with service providers and civil authorities. God bless, and keep crying out loud. -Rev. Chris Moles

    • Please pray with us that these pastors will hear and respond to the heart of God, and for the potential partnerships with service providers and civil authorities.

      Sure will, Rev. Chris.

    • Thank you Rev Chris. So nice to hear from a pastor who is doing something on this issue. I shall certainly pray.
      You may be planning to do this already, but at the training you might like to mention that we have a very liberal re-publication policy for our posts on this blog. We believe that getting the word out is more important than being precious about our copyright. To see our republication policy go to our About page and scroll down a bit. 🙂

      In the training, you might also find it helpful to distinguish between difficult marriages and destructive marriages. Leslie Vernick does this in her new book (pub late last year), and I think it’s useful so I’m borrowing the practice from her. Pastors often don’t make this distinction sufficiently and so they lump destructive marriages (which are abusive marriages) in with difficult marriages and give the same advice for both.

      And reiterating the definition of abuse on our sidebar is something that has to be done repeatedly, so that it really sinks in to people’s minds. But I’m probably telling you how to suck eggs, sorry!

      • Barbara, that’s great. We’ll take any advice you’re willing to offer 🙂 At our last prep meeting I think we realized we won’t be able to cover everything, but hopefully we can set the stage and cast solid vision. As for Leslie’s book, it’s a must read. Absolutely fabulous work. It’s funny you should mention her. I’ll let you know the final details but I was approached just this week about participating in a webinar with Leslie on the emotionally destructive relationship 🙂 The webinar is free and will be hosted by Radio Bible Class sometime in March. I’ll make sure you get the specifics so you can pass it along.

      • Chris, let me share a little story with you. When I was last in the States, myself and one of our back-of-blog team members met with her pastor and his wife for an evening to discuss the work we do on this blog. As my friend was recounting an anecdote of her ex’s abuse, the pastor interrupted with the question “Why would he do that?” His tone was one of astonishment, but I could see he was searching for reasons in my friend’s behaviour (the victim’s behavior) that might explain why the abuser did it. The pastor, a good hearted man, clearly could not compute why anyone would behave so horribly to someone else. It was the classic question that all victims of abuse and all right-thinkng people ask themselves when they hear how atrociously abusers treat their partners. The question is so classic that Lundy Bancroft wisely chose it for the title of his book: Why Does He DO That?

        This incomprehension of the mentality and tactics of evil is what you are going to be facing when you are delivering the training to pastors. Unless they have had good training in domestic abuse (or are abusers themselves!) they simply have little comprehension of the mindset of abusers, the profundity of their belief in their own entitlement and their enjoyment in exercising power and control over their victim(s).

        You have to explain the abuser’s mentality to people before they have any hope of ‘getting it’. Abusers believe in their own entitlement and they abuse because they like exercising power and control — it works, it procures them pleasure and perks. And you often have to explain this many times, with many illustrations. Talking about the abuser’s actions such as his acts of violence, his verbal abuse, or his financial abuse of the victim, is not sufficient to explain the dynamics of abuse to ‘normal’ people. You have to get people to understand the mentality of entitlement that it all springs from. Only then do people have a hope of starting to really get it.

  2. Lyn

    I believe pastors have many reasons why they refuse to see the reality of it. One, it would destroy the ‘idol worship’ of marriage. Two, they’d have to admit they were wrong. Three, it’s easier to blame the accuser than confront the accused. I am praying that pastors open their eyes.

  3. Reblogged this on Speakingtruthinlove's Blog.

  4. Pastors and ministry leaders need to understand that when they do not speak up against abuse, when they counsel in favor of silence, they are walking past the man on the road just like in the New Testament.

    One of the worst hurts as a survivor has come from those in the church who would rather me claim healing and shut up than to speak out for a stop to the silence. We need our leaders to say NO. and STOP. and come to us for safety. for comfort.

    It is like shooting our own wounded when we let the church be so blind to something that Christ would want us to be loud and visible in addressing as a faith body.

    I won’t stop speaking out against abuse, and speaking up for those who have no voice. So glad there are others as well!

  5. I have come to realize that when people rebuff these voices in the wilderness, it’s not because we need to scream louder – it’s because they just don’t want to hear it.
    But I trust that God will open the hearts and ears of those who belong to Him, and changes are coming.

  6. Michael Lehman

    Please keep praying for us pastors. It certainly is a big blind spot. Some might recall my own story which I shared on here some months ago as a guest post. One factor that was critical to my eyes being opened was finding decades of hidden abuse uncovered in our immediate family. Because of that, and also a particular pastoral situation we became close to at the same time locally, I was more than receptive to reading Lundy Bancroft’s great book.

    It’s just occurred to me even as I write that some kind of ‘condensed’ version of Lundy’s (and/or Jeff’s) book/s, with good promotion, could be worth considering. (Or maybe such exists already?) Most pastors are almost incurably busy, and it’s an unfortunate reality that one look at a book the thickness of Lundy’s will see it consigned to the ‘read it later one day maybe’ pile.

    Having been apprised of the realities of abuse, the next challenge is knowing how to introduce the subject to a church where it’s never been mentioned. Another subject …

  7. G. F. Mom

    First, I want to say thank you again for revealing these things. I am sure it must be excruciatingly painful when pastors don’t want to see or take action. I have experienced something similar to a much smaller degree and it made my heart sick to not be successful and instead feel left so alone with practically no support for taking action and doing what I thought was right in the way I knew how. So for you to say ” we proceed by crying out harder” that is commendable and inspiring. God strengthen us and may we abide in Him in our endeavors.

  8. Leslie

    I share this frustration as I have found the same denial and road blocks in the past year in my church as well. I do want to share a bright spot however as small as it may be.

    I have spent this past week with a group of fellow students (part of the class were MDIv students and myself and others were Masters of Spiritual formations students) at a theological seminary in Vancouver. The instructor was AMAZING, a former pastor and also a psychologist. He gives me hope!

    Through the course Content and various conversations the instructor offered for me to share my abuse story with these up and coming leaders in the church. It took me two days to summon the courage to do this, but the possible benefits outweighed the risk of not being believed. I shared my concern with my instructor and his response to me let me believe he would create a safe environment to share my story, and he did just that.

    My classmates not only ‘heard and validated my experience but they had great question, great compassion and I was able to describe the insidious, hidden nature of emotional abuse. Several asked “what can we do if someone comes to us who has this experience in their marriage ” I was able to share a few book suggestions and suggestions such as “believe them….journey with them, stand with them” Simple, but so often not happening. As this group journeys through this course in the next few months I expect there will be more dialogue.

    Unexpected to me, the instructor then spent the next 2 hours exposing the terrible theology that the church has so frequently used to keep abuse ‘ biblical” in some minds. He used my story to highlight the damage of misuse of power, coercion and control and finally taught life giving and freeing theology on headship and submission.

    It was a small class, but each person may go back to their sphere of influence and be a bit more open, wiser and more knowledgable. I pray it is so.

    Victories like this seem few and far between, but today, I am left with utter thanks to God for how He provided this opportunity. Let’s keep on with the fight and continue to challenge people to think differently about these things.

    Blessings weary sojourners!

    • That’s very encouraging, Leslie. Water eventually wears down the stone, eh? Congratulations and well done for having the courage to speak in that setting.

    • G. F. Mom

      I felt gladness in my heart for you, Leslie, as I read this. 🙂

    • Survivor

      Leslie, would you be able to share this instructor’s name. It is encouraging to hear there ARE people out there who “get it” and are teaching truth.

  9. As I See It Only

    It seems that so few pastors are called and anointed for the work; so many are enticed by the status. Let’s face it–there is a pay check attached. How many pastors out there would dare expose the sin of abuse in their congregations if it meant their families would be threatened (and they would!). Pray for the anointing, cry out louder for courage. Who knows? Maybe this issue is even now separating the pastor sheep from the pastor goats.

    • thepersistentwidow

      “Maybe this issue is even now separating the pastor sheep from the pastor goats.”
      AISIO, Good insight. It is.

    • anony

      I think you’re right. Pastors, friends, family, neighbors, healthcare professionals, etc….. Anyone who helps the abused is going to be targeted by the abuser. Judith Herman, in her book, Trauma and Recovery, talks about those who bear witness to that which is inflicted on the abused, and/or stand with the abused, will face the abuser’s unmasked fury, and for some, there can be no greater honor.

      I really think it comes down to people not wanting to jeopardize their own standing, paycheck, well-being, security, safety, etc.

      Think back to the playground bully… as he was beating up some poor kid, how many were fellow abusers who cheered him on, how many averted their eyes so as to remain blissfully ignorant of what was going on, how many jumped in and took on the bully, or ran to get teachers, etc to stop the beatdown? Those who got the teachers involved or took on the bully were targeted and aggressed against.

      Abusers are just evil playground bullies who grew up (got older). Same principles apply where whoever helps the abused or calls the abuser out on his evildoing, theyre next in line to either be manipulated into alliance with the evil abuser or targeted themselves.

  10. Tony

    I am encouraged by your blog. I am a law enforcement officer who teaches domestic violence courses for law enforcement and try and do public awareness projects in our community. I noticed the lack of assistance for victims in our churches in our community also and our domestic taskforce decided to host a domestic violence seminar for the faith community. There is a minister that is on our taskforce that also works with batterers in the community corrections system who speaks a similiar message to pastors. We have worked tirelessly to set up the training and invited probably close to 110 churches in our county from varied denominations and sizes. Our course is tommorrow and so far we might have 25 people registered. It is a shame that it is a free training with free lunch and the lack of response was suprising. I figured churches would jump on the opportunity to work with local government to help victims and batterers in the community, but I have seen the results firsthand of your comments. It blew my mind that I could not get even one person from 50% of the churches invited. I hope we have a larger turnout, but it does not look promising. I guess though that 20 people trained in our churches is better than none. Hopefully this is not our last training for the faith community.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Tony – Thank you for your efforts and for sharing your experience with us. I was a police officer for 13 years myself and found an much greater awareness of evil there than I have in the church during my 30 years now as a pastor. If you would like to email me at swordtrowel@gmail.com and give me a mailing address, I would be glad to send you our book, A Cry for Justice: How the Evil of Domestic Abuse Hides in Your Church. I think you will find it very helpful. I wrote from a pastoral perspective but also from law enforcement insights. It may be a tool that you can use to spark more interest among the churches there.

      • Tony

        Thank you for your response. I will be in touch.

      • Great to hear of your work, Tony. I understand the discouragement, but as you can see it’s something we face across the board with churches. That makes it even more sweet when voices like yours and our join together.

  11. Terry

    Keep on being faithful. This is a good work. May God be glorified through you and your work. May abused women find your site and realize they are not alone and God hears their cries. Pray and pray and pray and watch what God Will do.

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