A Cry For Justice

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

John Piper’s old church is admitting to fault in how it has addressed domestic abuse, and making changes.

Pastor Jason Meyer at John Piper’s old Church (Bethlehem Baptist) preached a sermon on Domestic Abuse last Sunday (sermon: Fooled By False Leadership).  Many are hopeful change is taking place. I am pessimistically hopeful.

Why hopeful? Because I really do hope the evil of abuse in the church is beginning to be exposed and called out.

Why do I remain pessimistic right now? Because I read nothing in Jason’s sermon about four acid tests that evidence real change:

  1. There was no mention that abuse is indeed biblical grounds for divorce.
  2. There was no acknowledgment of the profound rarity of true repentance by abusers (in fact, Jason issued a call to abusers to repent and reminded them that such repentance is their only hope).
  3. Jason and the elders at Bethlehem issued an invitation to victims to come to them and get help (he acknowledged that the church had “disappointed” some abuse victims in the past).
  4. What is the intent of the church leadership? Is their intent to “save and fix this marriage”?

Why are these tests so vital?

First, if a church still will not acknowledge divorce for abuse, then that church fails on every other count as a true and safe ally of the victim. Remember! Bethlehem church is the long-time preaching base of John Piper, infamous to us for his no divorce ever for any reason whatsoever permanence view bondage teaching.

Second, if there is still an undue emphasis upon bringing the abuser to repentance, victims will still be entangled in “waiting” for that repentance. Jason’s first statement in his conclusion, after reading the elders’ statement on domestic abuse, was a call to abusers to repent.

And third, what is wrong with an invitation to help victims? Nothing, if the nature of that help is healthy and right. On our Facebook page yesterday I posted about this (link) and said I want to hear from Bethlehem church that they intend to ask the victim how they can help, rather than tell her what they are going to do, and what she must do as well. I posed the question: What will victims receive now when they go to the Bethlehem church leadership? Books and resources to become educated about the abuse, about their abuser, about the effects of the abuse on themselves? Leaders asking her how they can help? Or will they be faced with more of a “never fear, dear sister. We will handle this” style from the leadership?

And fourth, if their intent is to “save and fix this marriage” and that is their primary goal, then they still are walking in ways that will continue to enable the abuser and increase the victim’s suffering.

On our Facebook post, a woman called Sara Engle Anderson submitted some comments and in fairness to her we are reproducing the essentials here. Sara wrote:

I am a member at Bethlehem. And I am a campus care coordinator for our new DART ministry, Domestic Abuse Response Team, who has worked with a team of women developing training, safety plans, etc for our First Responders and Care Teams.

Our goal is not to fix the marriage. We are asking the women how we can help. We are aware we have not done everything right in the past. We are spending time with good resources, professional counsellors, abused women, etc to right the wrongs and move forward according to God’s Word, which instructs us to care for the abused and cast out the abuser if there is no repentance. Abuse is not a marriage issue. We are aware there are wolves. Praise God for Jason and elders who “get it” and are committed to this ministry.

I replied to Sara:

Thank you Sara. If you can do so, would you tell the pastor and elders that many people are waiting to hear the church leaders there announce that they reject John Piper’s no-divorce-for-any-reason-ever teaching that has enslaved so many abuse victims? That is an honest question, I am not being accusatory toward you or the pastor and elders at all. But it is our conclusion here at ACFJ that if a ministry is truly going to be a help to victims and an exposer of abusers, it must embrace the fact that God allows divorce for abuse.

Sara responded:

John Piper was instrumental in my husband’s spiritual growth (and mine to a lesser degree). It doesn’t mean we agree with everything he said. We had a few things we didn’t agree with. I cannot speak for Jason or the elders…..but I can say that I expect them to hold up GOD’S WORD….and what He says. In many meetings with them, I know that is their heart’s desire. I am confident that as situations come to light and things are born out….there will be evidence of where they stand on such matters (it is not my place to say at this time, obviously). Thank you for your blog and the Cry For Justice book — I have found so much to be so helpful to me on this journey of ministering to the abused.

And in other comments Sara said:

We are fully aware and involved with lawyers and CPS and police as needed. We are not just concerned with the letter of the law and what it requires. We are working on utilizing the law for a paper trail, civil discipline, etc as warranted. Keep in mind that a lot of abuse can be emotional or verbal which is not against the law.

Re the importance of asking the victim how they can help, not telling her what they are going to do, and what she must do as well, Sara commented:

Our DART resource manual is just beginning to be filled with things like that to help us all. We understand abused women have been controlled for so long. We are wanting to walk WITH them as they move forward. While we continually point them to God’s Word for hope and counsel and wisdom, we are walking along side them….not pulling them along on a leash. Every situation is different. Just this week I am helping a woman navigate car repairs and attending a meeting with another woman and our campus pastor to see what she needs from us. So thankful for our team and how over the last several months God has been knitting it all together perfectly. Every step has blown us away by his faithfulness.

Barbara Roberts wrote this further down in the FB thread:

Sara, a lot of survivors of domestic abuse have been cruelly hurt by Biblical Counselors’ advice. Some of us are very leery of the title ‘Biblical Counselor’. While John Henderson’s input [John Henderson is the Biblical Counselor whom Bethlehem Baptist Church consulted to learn more about domestic abuse] to your church’s change of mind does seem to have been helpful, I think I can speak for many survivors in saying that we are still cautious about how safe it may be. We would like to hear Bethlehem take a stand, in this change you are making, by announcing loud and clear that in the past so-called Biblical (or Nouthetic) Counseling has been grossly unjust to victims of abuse by ascribing the victim’s distress to the victim’s own sin. This needs a 100% proclamation of reversal and apology to victims.

Also Sara, if I may make another suggestion, we know for a fact that some women have been in Bethlehem Baptist Church in the past and been treated immensely unjustly when they sought help from the church about the abuse they were suffering from their husbands. Some of these women have left BBC because of the way they were treated. Will BBC be addressing the wrongs they have done in the past in such cases, and making full specific confession, apology and reparation where possible? I’m not thinking of financial reparation firstly, or even necessarily; I’m thinking of the kind of reparation that gives vindication to the maligned woman by confessing how the church has hurt the victim, and publicly denouncing her abusive and unreformed husband (or ex-husband) for what he has done to his wife and to the church by passing himself off as a nice Christian man. . .

 

 

55 Comments

  1. Still Reforming

    Jeff,

    Thanks for this post. I think calling these organizations out is another step forward in the right direction.

    A few questions re: the pessimism related acid tests:

    1. Do you think that the lack of citing Biblical grounds for divorce in the case of abuse suggests a lack of study in the Word on at least Pastor Meyer’s part related to the subject? Because otherwise, he could have used God’s Word to support why the church – in God’s eyes – needs to support individuals who divorce for abuse. (Meyer’s lack here could suggest an easy return – if ever he left it – to the popular view of misunderstood verses like Malachi 2:16.)

    2. Likewise do you think the lack of mention of rarity of repentance on the part of abusers suggests a lack of real knowledge regarding what abuse is (as per the definition of it here at A Cry for Justice) by Pastor Meyer and his church? I would even go so far as to suggest a lack of real knowledge of individuals caught in the web of abuse as well. Yet since Christ defined His family as those who obey God, I expect church family – particularly leadership – to defend their God-given family when in fact the opposite is more often the case.

    3. Had Pastor Meyer come out of the gate strong on the side of the victims, then in that context an invitation to come to him and his church would be wholly appreciated. Yet if his focus is more on the repentance of the abuser (focusing as much and perhaps more on the perpetrator than the victim) then such an invitation to the victim sounds more akin to the leadership feeling good about themselves in “trying to help” because their main focus is saving the abuser’s soul – at the victim’s expense. In my view, this completely ignores texts of Scripture whereby the evil-doer is not sought ad infinitum, but instead left to his own devices or kicked out of the church.

    I agree with your assessment of this whole sermon and that church’s position on the subject. I wouldn’t touch that church with a 10-foot pole. Frankly, the more I learn about the mainstream church’s position on the subject of abuse and divorce, the more I am reminded of the Pharisees and religious leaders in Christ’s day.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Still Reforming: 1. Well, I hope that he will be studying this subject now and proceeding with sermons on it so that he can educate the entire church. 2. It could. I would hope that as he learns more, he will realize just how rare real repentance is, especially among abusers. 3. Those are certainly common traps for leaders to fall into. Over the long haul we will see just how strongly BBC is going to be in helping victims and rendering justice to the abuser.

  2. Still Reforming

    I must apologize; I’m real bad about reading to a certain point and then just responding. I had not yet read Sara’s comments before posting my first comment. It sounds like Sara truly wants to help, and I’m grateful that she at least responded.

    That said, Sara’s comment to “Keep in mind that a lot of abuse can be emotional or verbal which is not against the law” makes me shudder.

    I have learned quite painfully over the past half a year that lying, verbal abuse, manipulation, false allegations, etc are not against the law in the United States (or in cases where they could be, it takes thousands if not tens of thousands in litigation to file motions, take depositions, appear before judges, all of which will likely result in but a slap on the hand and a word from the judge to straighten up and fly right).

    But is not abuse that is emotional and verbal (and spiritual) against God’s Law? Isn’t that what Sara wrote that she expects the church leaders to uphold: God’s Word? What does God say about verbal and emotional abuse – and spiritual abuse? And how do the church leaders intend to handle those allegations when testimonies of individuals come forward? How will church leaders handle it when two parties come forward and it is evident that one of them must be lying?

    I am grateful for Sara’s jumping into the conversation on Facebook and for Pastor Jeff’s posting those comments here. I’ll be interested in reading the reply, if there is one, to Barbara’s comment to Sara.

    • I think her point is the same as yours- that that abuse IS against God’s law, and so the church must confront it even if the state will not.

    • Misti

      Actually, verbal and emotional abuse actually are explicitly against the law in some states in the USA. Just not all of ’em.

  3. Barnabasintraining

    I saw further comments on this this morning.

    It cannot be overstated how valuable it would be for Bethlehem Baptist to publicly state all the things Barbara said. The example they would set, given the influence they have well beyond their own walls, would be immeasurably helpful.

    One comment from Sara, whom I really appreciate engaging on this, addressed the imperfection of their ministry and not making everyone happy on all the details. I don’t believe anyone is really expecting all the details to line up with everyone’s concerns. I am not concerned about details myself. I am concerned about major confessions and positions, though.

    I just want to put out there that the doctrine of divorce for abuse is not a detail. Not that Sara suggested it was — she didn’t — but sometimes things that are really major issues can get lumped into a detail pile and I would like to avert that as far as I’m able.

    The fact is, Bethlehem Baptist, through the teaching and preaching of John Piper, has had major detrimental effects on victims well beyond the walls of BBC, and for his own former church to reverse this course and set the example for others to do the same is to put it simply — huge. Other than John Piper himself specifically and clearly and publicly reversing his position on divorce for abuse and how the church has understood abuse, handled abuse cases, and treated victims, I can think of no other source with the potential power to effect real change on a church-wide level than Bethlehem Baptist in Piper’s wake. The reason being a sea change of this magnitude (basically about a 180* is how it looks out here) from such a well known church. It’s almost Pauline. “This man now preaches the gospel he once persecuted.” That sort of thing. It is one of the last places we would expect to see this, and is also so incredibly well known so it makes it rather noticeable. And it introduces a challenge to the assemblies and persons who took Piper’s teaching as the way it is.

    But it is for this reason that BBC really cannot not say openly and plainly that they are now supporting and teaching as biblical the doctrine of divorce for abuse.

    One other thing that bears mentioning. When Saul became Paul there were many who were skeptical. We all have understood exactly why that is. I do hope those at BBC understand they should expect the same range of responses from hope filled excitement to skepticism to outright incredulity, and do not take offense (no reference to the previous article on here!) at being challenged in a sometimes not entirely friendly manner. They are going to have to earn trust.

    In the meantime I will pray that God will cause to be seen everything everyone needs to know this is from Him, if it is indeed from Him…which I certainly hope it is… 🙂 and not get bogged down or caught up in details.

  4. savedbygrace

    I suppose I should be happy to hear this, but honestly it makes me very angry. It’s been eleven years, and yet just thinking about how Bethlehem Baptist handled my abuser makes my heart pound. He nearly killed me…. I had to have two major surgeries to save my life. Six weeks in the hospital. Three months being fed by a PICC line.
    They blamed me.
    I may stop back and leave a more lengthy comment later, when I can do so from my computer instead of my phone. And hopefully I will be a little less angry by then.
    Unless they have had a fundamental shift in their thinking, I don’t think what they are doing will be enough.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Savedbygrace – Thank you very much. Yes, please do leave another comment here and you also may want to put it over on our FB page as well where some of the folks at Bethlehem Baptist will be more likely to see it. They claim to be correcting things there and one of the things that surely they will need to do is go back to people like yourself, humbly repent and ask for forgiveness, and deal justice to your abuser. If they are genuine in this change then the will want to do this.

      • savedbygrace

        Thank you. I plan to write them now that I’ve had some time and I can do so without being angry. I don’t know if it will get anywhere, but I hope hearing from someone will help them understand that we are real people…sisters in Christ, who were hurt by them.
        Discussing it on social media just makes me nervous; I wouldn’t normally have even said anything here but this one just really bothered me. I hate that I feel like I’m still be silenced because of fear, but I also know that I need to keep myself and my children safe. We’ve been divorced for ten years now, and both of us are remarried but there have still been some incidents. Things have been quiet for a few years now – Praise God! But I don’t want to stir things up.

      • Jessica, I hear you 🙂

        Caution about how and where to voice your just grievances is probably very wise, especially since your ex is still ‘at large’ so to speak.

        I would encourage you not to be hard on yourself for feeling that you are still being silenced because of fear. It sounds to me like you are making a careful and wise assessment of the various risks you face, and your fear is probably a healthy warning sign of potential dangers that exist out there. And in the face of those risks, you are choosing judiciuosly how to proceed from here.

        Blessings to you.

    • Barnabasintraining

      It’s been eleven years, and yet just thinking about how Bethlehem Baptist handled my abuser makes my heart pound. He nearly killed me…. I had to have two major surgeries to save my life. Six weeks in the hospital. Three months being fed by a PICC line.
      They blamed me….

      Unless they have had a fundamental shift in their thinking, I don’t think what they are doing will be enough.

      This is the stuff we need to know. This needs to be accounted for. This is outrageous. It also shows why optimism needs to be tempered. Have they had a fundamental shift in their thinking? Whose thinking shifted? Whose didn’t? (Supposedly there is/was a divide among the leadership on abuse matters.) And what led to the shift? Is this rearranging the deck chairs or is this a change at the DNA level?

      My first inclination is to want to know who was responsible for this horrendous pastoral malpractice (though I do not expect you to reveal that, Jessica). I want to know what did Piper know and when did he know it, and what did he do about it, and why did he take whatever course he took?

      I also want to know how vast the disparity was between him and his staff/leadership on this matter (how to handle abuse, etc.) and why if there was such disagreement he was ever allowed to spread the sort of things he did (and still does). I already get how church boards work and the pressure to demonstrate public agreement that does not necessarily exist in reality. (How that is not lying to the congregation has never been adequately explained to me.) But at a cost like this? And I am sure this is not the only such case even in BBC. It certainly is not alone among other churches that relied on or were strongly influenced by Piper, et al.

      The church I was in was far removed from BBC geographically, but not doctrinally. The victim might as well have sat in the BBC pews herself at some points.

      I would like to know whatever you are willing to share of your experience, Jessica.

      • Very good points, BIT.

        Just for everyone’s information, Sara Engle Anderson wrote this on our FB thread:

        We do understand the prior hurt and damage. It is similar to race relations. We cannot undo the past. There will be injustice on this earth, this side of heaven. But we can make strides forward and attempt to reconcile and move forward in truth.

        One difficult issue is that 11 years ago most pastors and elders who are currently there were not back then. I will be in prayer for people like the woman who commented above – it seems beyond our human ability to “fix” and it is. Praying for God’s wisdom and grace. I am grateful for all of your responses and grace filled comments. I do not sense unfairness or unjustified anger. I appreciate that. I appreciate your advice, your prayers, etc. We will never “arrive” at perfection in this, but are seeking the Lord and the truth of His Word.

        We are praying that through this MANY would see Jesus and His work on the cross and be brought to saving faith. And we pray that many would be saved from further abuse, and that God might see fit to bless our efforts and even use them to expand awareness across more churches. I have heard from others at other churches that they are in need of resources and help as well. We long for God and His Word to be lifted high and for God to get the glory in all of this. Thank you for your input for us in this area. We look forward to more from you in this journey to minister to the abused.

      • savedbygrace

        To the best of my knowledge Piper was not aware of the situation, and that was part of the problem. There was no getting past the counseling staff to talk to an elder there. However I do think that Piper’s view of divorce does lead to these types of issues. It seemed like my only option to was agree to their terms or be deemed an “unbeliever” when I wasn’t immediately…even while the criminal court case was still pending…seeking reconciliation.

    • Jessica, so thankful for you to be willing to put a real face on the effects of this ministry. It’s not just theological positions and disagreements. There are real lives that have been destroyed by this.

      • Abigail

        Oh, dear Jessica, sister… I am right now thanking God for your life. Thank you for sharing, and know that yours is a righteous anger. I pray you get the apology and request for forgiveness that you deserve. I am so sorry the church let you down so badly. I too experienced that, but nothing like the suffering you went through. Bless you, dearly beloved of the Lord. He has delivered you and he will continue to deliver you!

    • Hi Jessica
      Jeff C has republished your comment on yesterday’s FB thread. You can see that thread here:

      Look down the comments under that post for one written by ACFJ that starts with the words ” Just to show you what BBC needs to deal with in regard to its history of rendering injustice to abuse victims, here is a comment we received from a lady on the ACFJ blog just this morning after she heard about Jason’s sermon:” [Jeff then reproduced your words.]

      I want to honour you Jessica and praise you for sharing some of her story and your current feelings. Also I want readers like Jessica to know that although I am pleased and hopeful about BBC’s apparent change, I do not want in any way to convey that I am minimizing or sidelining the suffering of survivors who have been hurt in the past by BBC.

      • savedbygrace

        Thank you!

    • oh, and by the way, Jessica, I encourage you not to ‘should’ on yourself by saying “I suppose I should be happy to hear this . . ”

      There are no *shoulds* about how survivors ought or ought not to feel! 🙂

  5. I am cautiously encouraged by this. I don’t think the church can renounce Piper’s teaching on divorce since they never held to it in the first place, but they need to see how important it is for them to be clear that divorce is allowed in abuse cases. And that anything short of that is still enabling and supporting the abuser (door number 2, as it were).

    Regardless, I think it’s positive that they avoided a passive voice and saying stuff like “mistakes were made” and instead were very direct: “we made mistakes, and here’s the path we are walking to do better”. I don’t think it’s a perfect path yet, but they are putting themselves in the position to do better. Only time will tell how they walk the repentant road. . . .

    • I think it’s positive that they avoided a passive voice and saying stuff like “mistakes were made” and instead were very direct: “we made mistakes, and here’s the path we are walking to do better”.

      Very good observation, Jeff S! Yes; the passive voice used in ‘apologies’ is a real sign that nothing deep down is changing. And in contrast, when the active voice is used by those apologising, it’s a very good sign.

  6. Sara E Anderson

    I did not intend to minimize emotional or verbal abuse. I think my comment was not taken in the spirit in which I intended it. We DO believe that is against God’s word! I just meant that in cases of involving the law, we are not able to utilize civil authorities in those types of abuse cases. I know from talking to several women who have endured physical AND emotional/verbal abuse (including some very close to me) that the emotional/verbal is far more damaging and hurtful to them in the long run. It IS just as serious. In addition, we believe sexual abuse in marriage occurs. And frequently under the guise of “the Bible”, making it also spiritual abuse. All of those types of abuse exist and all are horrific and all are sin.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Thank you Sara

    • Still Reforming

      Thank you for that clarification and that validation, Sara. I’m really sorry that I misunderstood you.

      Would you mind answering a question for me if you have the time to do so? How does Bethlehem Baptist handle those difficult-to-discern situations then, when one party (likely the wife 99.99 percent of the time) comes forward to state that there is manipulation, deception, betrayal of the marriage covenant (not meaning adultery), emotional and spiritual abuse? And if the spouse denies that. How does the church handle that? I know every case is different, but… there must be some type of way that Bethlehem Baptist would choose to handle these matters to discern truth.

      I guess I’m asking because I lived through such an experience with my recently former (reformed Baptist) church in which I had diligently served for nearly a decade, only to find the pastor and leaders err on the side of the husband (who, by the testimony of one congregant “nobody really knows him”) – one leader outright refusing to read a prayer request I wrote, stating to my face that he “prefers to deal with the husband.” My pastor said on more that one occasion to me, “Well, i don’t know because I wasn’t there.” I realized that if there aren’t witnesses (which there usually aren’t), church leaders may well choose to discredit the testimony – at least of the wife, who is usually the victim.

      I hope you don’t mind my asking. I’m just curious since Pastor John Meyer has at least addressed the topic, for which I am glad, and you have chosen to engage here and elsewhere with A Cry for Justice, for which I am also thankful.

      Perhaps I am wrong to be asking these questions of you since you don’t necessarily speak for the church, but I am glad that you stepped into the fray and really glad that you are sensitive to the topic and working alongside victims of abuse to assist them in getting the real help they need.

      • Sara Engle Anderson

        (Sara Engle Anderson speaking – my Word Press account doesn’t reflect that I guess) Good questions. I can tell you that those are specific things we are dealing with currently in some situations. The elders are doing a great job of speaking with the wife alone to get her story, then meeting with the men to address it. They are holding up standards and specific things the husband must be doing to demonstrate repentence. They are working with outside counsellors as well. They have a Biblical process in place, that does end in “excommunication”. I had those concerns as I know those issues are present in some of our current situations. And the leadership is responding in viewing this as abuse and against the marriage covenant. God has given us some elders and pastors who are very wise in seeing through all of the abusers manipulations and seeing where the heart is truly at. It is amazing to see how He has brought people into this “topic” in our church who have direct abuse experience which really gives them an “edge” in understanding it better.

        I am happy to address some of these questions, as my heart is so longing for us to move forward in right and helpful and Biblical responses to this long hidden darkness that has been going on in the evangelical community. While we are far from arrived or perfect, we feel we are following God in obedience in this matter. Which means He will equip as we go, and also means we will make mistakes as we go since we are human.

      • Still Reforming

        slanderson,
        Thank you, Sara. Your response is encouraging to read. I do hope that the true victims of abuse in your church are able to receive the help they need via your ministry and that of the elders. I appreciate greatly that you took the time to clarify what your church is doing. I don’t think anyone expects perfection from people trying to come alongside victims and help them stand and regain what they’ve lost – be it mental, emotional, spiritual, physical. Many of us are initially just glad for someone to believe us. Thank you.

      • Sara, I changed the screen name on your comment to show it the same as you use on FB. We can easily do that kind of stuff from the back of the blog.
        When submitting comments here, you can write whatever you like in the NAME box. Your WP account may automatically put a name there, but you can change that name to whatever you want.
        If you want further info about the ins and outs of submitting comments to this blog, check out our New Users Info page.

    • Thanks Sara. That’s how I interpreted your comment. 🙂

    • Sara, I really appreciate your willingness to engage with us here. I am very encouraged and optimistic by the tone of the original message and the way you have put yourself out there, willing to hear about anger and hurt, and validated those things. A lot of the points of the sermon sound to me like the church has “dug in” and gotten educated about abuse, not just in the “abuse is bad” way, but learning the nuances and how it operates.

      But with that being said, it will be hard for me to feel peaceful with BBC as long as there is a positive relationship with John Piper, or until John Piper recants his views on divorce. These views are so disruptive, and I know this very personally. The church I was at preached permanence to me, directing me to Piper. For any already broken down person in a lot of pain, this just piled pain upon pain. I am doing much, MUCH better today, no small thanks to ACFJ and the community here, but in the period immediately following the divorce I was empty, broken, and without much hope. My faith was in shambles and I didn’t know how I could trust the church. I flinched every time Piper’s name was mentioned.

      And in the midst of that, I wrote a letter. I didn’t intend to send it, but I did want to process the emotions. I figured Piper wouldn’t really be interested in what I had to say, I’m just one of millions who has heard his teaching, but writing the letter helped me describe what I was feeling and understand myself. Since I never intended anyone to read it, it’s about as honest as it gets, but months later Jeff and Barbara allowed me to publish it on this site. I’ve never before revealed it was from me, but I feel like this is important enough to do so because I want BBC to know what happened in the lives of people like me because of the platform Piper had.

      Re-reading it, I feel like I was shaming myself a bit too much about not being able to “get over” my “disagreement” with Piper. Now I think his theology on divorce is just wrong and harmful, but I do think this letter accurately represents the state of mind of someone who was broken and hurting, and most of all feeling devalued, by what Piper was teaching from his platform of high influence.

      https://cryingoutforjustice.com/2012/10/10/a-open-letter-to-john-piper-about-his-view-on-divorce/

      Again, I appreciate your willingness to engage here. I am encouraged by what I read. But there is a lot of damage here, and a lot of it extends beyond the walls of your solitary church. Divorce in abuse cases is an essential part of all of this. Holding people in destructive marriages is not only harmful, but it shows the world a very wrong picture of what kind of God we serve.

      Will Piper recant his teaching. Is it possible for BBC to sever ties with someone who preaches such a destructive doctrine? Both of those things seem unlikely, but God is a God of miracles, and this IS a mountain he can move. In the meantime, I will still be encouraged that from the outside, it seems like your church is moving in the right direction.

  7. Reaching for the prize

    So what is Bethlehem doing about the pastors that have knowingly encouraged abusers and given them further skills with which to abuse their victims? Are they now “trained” out of this?

    • Reaching, that’s a reasonable question. I can’t speak for BBC, of course, but I would guess that the training in BBC is a work in progress.

      Another church which we DO know about is Ps Crippen’s church. The change there didn’t happen overnight.

      It took a major serious situation to waken Jeff to the dynamics of abuse and the tactics and mentality of abusers. Jeff then gradually educated his elders and congregation. Twenty-one sermons later, there were still some people in the church who were ‘not getting it’. Those people have eventually left or been put out of the church. It was a very long process with lots of bumps in the road, and Jeff and his elders didn’t get it all right all at once. They learned from books, from Bible study and Jeff’s sermons, and very importantly, from real cases at the coal face which they had to address in their own congregation. And each time they were sucked in by a hypocrite, led to them eventually strengthening their discernment and their responses so that they dealt more effectively and promptly with the hypocrite.

      It’s an iterative process, and it needs both theory and practical experience (often painful experience) to learn how to recognise and deal with wolves and snakes.

  8. Ellie

    I have been thinking about the public reaction to this. Here’s something I’d like too see happen and it’s something I asked a local megachurch to do as well. I’d like for BBC, for all churches really, to seek out people they know they’ve given bad advice to and make amends. I think it would be best if the staffs took inventories, like in a 12 step program, of abuse cases that they know were mishandled and then make personal apologies on behalf of the church. Of course it would be best if Piper himself actually apologized too. This would set a marvelous standard and go a long way to help people heal. Our inboxes are blowing up with people emailing about this. Some are hopeful. Some are hurt that it took so long and they were harmed in the meantime. Reaching out to the ones who were harmed by past policies will do wonders for the Kingdom of God.

    The Holy Spirit has helped me to do this in my own life. I used to have multiple copies of several of the books on out bad books list. I gave them away like a summer missionary gives out tracts at Grand Central in NYC (that’s a lot, y’all). I gave them to crying women, to angry looking women, to anyone who looked the least bit unsubmissive. I’ve reached out to the ones I can find to apologize and to tell them I was wrong. The response has been good and healing for all involved.

    • Ellie, I’m with you on the need for churches to do an inventory of who and how they have unjustly hurt regarding this issue of domestic abuse.

      and yes, wouldn’t it be good if Piper apologized! But we’d need to keep our antennae up for the differences between a genuine apology and an image-management apology!

      However, I’m mindful too that BBC is not Piper any more. They have his legacy and are well known because of his having led them for years, but they are not him.

      Let’s hope that Piper is reading threads like this one and doing some serious self-examination!

  9. Anonymous

    I wonder if it has anything to do with tithing. Once I stopped attending church I stopped tithing and my husband had always considered it a waste of money anyway so he never tithed. I wonder if they’ve seen a drop in their financial resources since they’ve run women off who were crying abuse and are now trying to recoup their loses. Something to consider.

  10. Sara wrote, “While we continually point them to God’s Word for hope and counsel and wisdom, we are walking along side them….not pulling them along on a leash.”

    While it does sound like a positive move, the thing that made me twitchy about this comment is the fact that “God’s Word” is read and interpreted so many different ways by people who each claim to have the ‘true’ interpretation. Whose interpretation will be given credence? As I know what it’s like to have “God’s Word” used in an attempt to control me, I must confess that I am really wary of this statement 😦

  11. Just letting you all know that there is a thread at The Gospel Coalition’s FB page about Jason Meyer’s sermon on domestic abuse. https://www.facebook.com/thegospelcoalition/posts/10152653251317723

  12. Jason Meyer’s Discussion Questions for his sermon ended with this Main Point:

    Christlike leadership focuses on becoming a servant; the satanic distortion of leadership focuses on making servants and then exploiting them.

    I think that is a very good way of putting it. It’s concise; and the language is tough — no punches are pulled. 🙂

    The Application Questions include this:
    B

    Both married men and single men: Are you prone to be overactive or too passive? What steps can you take to counteract these tendencies? Answer these questions yourself and then ask your wife and compare answers. (Single people: Ask a close friend.)

    I very much approve of telling a husband to ask his wife for her view of his conduct in the marriage. Often a man will assess his conduct in the marriage as ‘fine, no problems’ but his wife will see it very differently!

  13. Also, regarding Jason Meyer’s Discussion Questions for his sermon, I wrote a few comments/suggestions on BBC’s Facebook page
    [ http://www.facebook.com/BethlehemBaptist/posts/1048446305170420 ]

    Here is what I wrote:

    From the questions: “Both married men and single men: Are you prone to be overactive or too passive?”
    In my opinion, this question was phrased poorly, and the language of Jason Meyer in that part of his sermon was likewise poorly phrased. May I please take the opportuinty to offer my suggestions to Jason and to Bethlehem as a whole?

    “Overactive” has too broad a meaning and is too vanilla for the issue of domestic abuse. A man could be overactive in so many ways, and not all those ways would constitute abuse (the ditch which Jason Meyers was referring to). For example, some men are overactive in trying to help female victims of domestic abuse without having sufficient understanding of how to do that wisely, namely, how to prioritize the safety and viewpoint and dignity and personal choice of the woman.

    So “overactivity” is not the best word for the sin that men need to be questioned about. What men need to be question about is this: “Men, do you believe you have the right to maintain power and control over your wife or the woman you might court or marry? Do you believe her opinions and her feelings are less important than yours? Do you believe you are entitled to be served by her (domestically, sexually, etc)? Do you intimidate her and resist her attempts to call you on your sinful behavior and your wrongful attitudes?”

    I believe men need to be challenged with blunt language and firm questioning. Abusive men in particular need that kind of challenge. Challenging them with the vague question “Are you overactive?” will not prick the abusive man’s armour.

    I would also like, if I may, to make a comment about Ps Jason’s use of the term “passive-aggressive”. Ps Jason, you may like to know that at ACFJ we encourage people to use the term “covert-aggressive” for that kind of abusiveness, rather than “passive-aggressive”. In this, we follow suit with Dr Dr. George K. Simon. See our article Covert aggression is not the same as passive aggression

    Jason Meyer replied to me, saying:

    Barbara, I really like your suggestions. We have certainly not arrived in how to talk about these things in the most helpful ways possible. I will start using the language of “covert aggressive” because I think it more accurately captures what the sermon was trying to say. Thank you for your help.

    Need I say that I am very encouraged to hear this from Jason! 🙂

    • Still Reforming

      Barbara,

      My first thought reading that question was – Well, if you asked my husband that question, no matter how he answers it wouldn’t change the abuse he delivers, because he has the attitude of entitlement. I don’t think that asking questions of abusive men is going to cause them to rethink how they are, because they consider themselves to be entitled.

      Just reading that question makes me think they don’t understand. Spending time with Lundy Bancroft, watching his videos and/or reading his books may help, if they haven’t already done so. Lundy asks questions, but I’d bet his understanding of the answers given is vastly different than how most church leaders would receive the same answers.

      Maybe it’s too hard to understand without having encountered the evil and lived it face-to-face. The world has changed for me now that I’ve come that close to evil, living it daily for two decades. I still trust people, but…. there’s a pervasive sadness that taints the view somehow. I wouldn’t ask probing questions anymore of my abuser. He could – and continues to – snow people, including church leaders, all too easily. That’s why that question bothers me.

      • standsfortruth

        Gosh Barbara, your ability to see the error in Ps Jasons approach is spot on.
        But I also see how futile it is to try to council/ understand a narcissistic abuser, who has a mentality of entitlement as they are great decevers at what they do.
        I guess this is something that the pastor will have to find out on his own.

    • Barabara, you are so insightful, and this was so good. I’m glad that Jason responded positively.

  14. Persis

    I am cautiously hopeful as well.

    However, another concern I have is about the attitude toward women in general and the potential for creating a culture where they are afraid to speak. Women have been taught from some pulpits and by very prominent female authors (Kassian and DeMoss come to mind) that they are, by their very nature, usurpers and rebellious against men. This default assumption can be so dangerous because it plays right into the blame-shifting and gas-lighting of the abuser. Also if the wife is taught to never say anything critical about her husband, she is already conditioned by the culture to remain silent under abuse. It’s as though she is taught that walking on eggshells is normal because she must never ever cross the line.

    Is it any wonder that abuse has remained hidden in the church and women have suffered in silence so long? When she finally breaks free from the fog and goes for help, how many times have women been blamed or accused of lying or exaggerating? There is a predisposition that she is the one at fault because of how Genesis 3:16 is interpreted. This opens up a can of worms because the Foh view is held tenaciously in the evangelical and reformed camps as the standard against the perceived threat of “feminism”. But when the church tries to barricade itself against “feminism”, has it inadvertantly left the door open for misogyny?

    (For the record, I still consider myself a comp.)

    • Ruth

      Abusers are often narcissists, sociopaths and psychopaths. They hide in places that allow them to abuse others often free of comment and not being called up for their behavior. If I were an abuser I would love to join your church. Men who allow this in any way are also abusers. I am not a member of our church but I now better understand the silence that women are expected to submitted to. A form of abuse in itself isn’t it? Are you sure that these elders are not just abusers too.

      I started reading about John Piper after i began working for a boss who follows him. It was the worse job i ever had. He treated me like garbage and the only way I could keep my job until I found another was to treat him like a king and I knew it was all about his religious
      ‘right’ to be treated that way that made him do it. It was obvious that he was loving it and it made me feel sick. So happy to be free of that kind of covert crap. Good luck ladies. These are not nice men.

  15. Mary

    Maybe this is the wrong time and place to bring this up, and maybe I’m misreading this, but are you at all seeking to make sure that churches like Bethlehem Baptist recognize abusive people soon enough that they know to warn people away from marrying them in the first place? Or even maybe seeing if pastors and church leaders could teach people how to recognize abusers for themselves? As a Christian young person, thinking about what happens to the next generation (as in, mine), I’m frankly a little disturbed if the goal is only to make it easier for Christians to divorce abusive spouses. That means people are still being abused. Is there any way to actually keep it from happening? I know many already are (or have been) married to abusive people, through no fault of their own, and that it’s incredibly important to know how to respond to them, so I’m sorry if this is out of place, or if I’m misunderstanding what you’re trying to accomplish, but I’m just trying to think long-term.

  16. Hannah

    I feel some uncomfortable overtones, but I will try to be hopeful. I guess to many years of hearing their former leader (Piper) rail on and on about submission, and purposely missing the point so he doesn’t have to answer the actual question.

    I mean his bit about submission and the abusive spouse was irresponsible and cruel. Yet, the man couldn’t find the humility that he preaches about to others to admit his dangerous errors. He waits 4 years to ‘clarify’, and it said a whole lot of nothing.

    I’m also very uncomfortable with the fact they approach the abusive party, and I would hope they have asked the victim if that is even safe to do. I mean if they didn’t take those steps? They will be gone, and she has one heck of a ‘welcome home’ party for breaking the silence.

    Way to often their lessons are geared towards ‘authority’, and its more human – or as they like to use WORLDLY – in definition. That doesn’t change just because they place the word ‘biblical’ in front of it either. When you are brought up from cradle to grave about how you have the authority – in the worldly sense – nothing is going to change just because you decide your going to soften parts of your approach.

    I’m happy that their heads aren’t completely in the sand anymore, but that doesn’t make me feel like they are completely out of the hole breathing fresh air instead either.

  17. Anne

    May I ask a question, if anyone can shed light on this I’d appreciate it. I am looking for a new church, one that will be supportive whether I stay in my marriage or go, one that will be safe for me. We’ve now had bad experiences in our family, not just me but my kids in job related and school related things in the last few years, as well as the emotional abuse in my marriage relationship where I do not trust the Assembly of God, Southern Baptist or Presbyterian USA denominations – frankly, I’m at a point where I don’t trust anyone who calls themselves a Christian and belongs to any formal denomination – in the past few years, my daughters and I have all been put through hell by supposed Christians. But I have not given up on God, am craving fellowship, know that churches are made up of imperfect humans so I have not given up hope yet of finding a church home. I thought I might have found a good one about a month ago, loved the service and the people, very warm and welcoming. It was called Sovereign Grace. @_@. That Sovereign Grace, the family of those churches. After I went, did a little research and heard about John Piper and having been reading about emotional abuse , on this website and others, his name was not unknown to me. So now I’m afraid to go back there.

    Is there any advice anyone can give me? Are there any church denominations that are Bible believing AND safe for abuse survivors? I have a hard time trusting myself to make decisions after what I’ve been through so am at a point where I’m about ready to give up on fellowship and just read my bible at home and stay away from so called ‘c’hristians.

    • thepersistentwidow

      Anne, I suggest that you take a look at the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod. They have taken a stand supporting abuse victims.

      The denomination takes a caring stance for abuse victims but I cannot guarantee that all of their churches are completely on the same page. If you contact Deaconess Kim Schave. She will assist you in finding a church and she will also contact the pastor directly to be certain that he is informed with the domestic abuse educational materials. There are around 6000 LCMS churches in America and they have sister churches in other countries. You may also contact me directly at persistentwidow@outlook.com if I can answer any questions about LCMS for you. Praying that you find a church that you will be blessed in.

      • Anne

        Thank you thepersistentwidow! 🙂

    • Anne, I totally understand the position you are in. I felt turned upside down after I had to leave my church over the divorce issue, and I was scared to even talk to anyone labeled a “Christian” for a while. It all felt very unsafe. I didn’t think I would be able to find a church, and had almost resolved to “go liberal” in order just to have some connection with God that I felt wouldn’t be emotionally dangerous. I would’ve walked away from the faith entirely, but God just wouldn’t let me go.

      By his grace I found this blog and a great church that both supported me and helped m recover from the trauma. In my case, the church was PCA, but others have had terrible experiences with PCA, so unfortunately I think denominational tag isn’t as important as learning the church itself. But of course, when you are vulnerable that is hard. I remember meeting with my current pastor and just laying it all out there, ready to bolt if he said the wrong thing. He looked at me and said “That was abuse and I am glad you are out of it” and I was so relieved. If only we could trust all churches to say something so simple and true.

      I would steer clear of SGA, though. I do not have personal experience, but they do not have a very good track record of handling abuse issues.

      And, btw, if you need to give up on fellowship and just read your bible for a while, I think that can be a good thing. I think the key is to stay connected to God while you are recovering, and he will put the relationships in place to get you where you need to be in the long run. I know Christians who have had to flee the church for a while, and they’ve come out just fine.

      • I didn’t think I would be able to find a church, and had almost resolved to “go liberal” in order just to have some connection with God that I felt wouldn’t be emotionally dangerous. I would’ve walked away from the faith entirely, but God just wouldn’t let me go.

        Isn’t God wondefful? He wouldn’t let you go. I love our Lord 🙂

        And your testimony, Jeff S, illustrates how Christian victims of domestic abuse who’ve suffered secondary abuse from the church can turn to liberal churches . . .

        What an indictment on evangelical and conservative churches that they drive the abused to liberal churches. And then they wring their hands and plaintively deplore how few people are faithful to Evangelicalism!

      • Still Scared but you can call me Cindy

        It is VERY individual with churches. I had a great church that walked me through the whole coming out of the fog, divorce and the first years after. In September I felt God prompting me to go to another church, I think I need to be stretched, away from safe easy place and well known, safe people. Anyway, were I am going is a Sovereign Grace, (they have actually separated from the denomination) BUT they are wonderful to me and some of my hard questions about divorce for abuse are helping them change more. I am at a place where I am stronger and more firm in my convictions so it allows them to be challenged in a healthy way and re-think how they deal with abuse.

      • Anne

        Thank you Jeff and Barbara!
        Jeff, I appreciate what you’ve said and it really resonates with me.

        In my case, I’ve been PC USA for many years, after leaving the Catholic faith I grew up in.We had moved to AoG (as a family) as our faith grew and we felt we needed more “meat” . That move turned ugly very quickly and in hindsight, if I could just change one thing in my life, it would be the decision to go to that church and send our kids to their school. The pain and turmoil that decision caused in our own family has been incalculable. Except for husband. He took to it like a fish to water amd wouldn’t even consider leaving to find a church we could all live and grow in. End result, one child an atheist, one had to go to counseling for years to even have a relationship with her father at all, a wife abused and one child refusing to go back to that place and asking some very hard questions about God and church. But somehow we kept trusting “Christians” and went on to Christian colleges and even a church job … where the bad behavior by supposed Christians continued to hurt and destroy.

        But you are right Jeff, God has not let any of us go, except for my one child who is an atheist now (and God hasn’t turned His back on that child, that child is the one who has turned away for now… God can change hearts and I pray that once the damage heals, this child will go back to the faith someday), and we all still hunger for relationship with Him. So He is so faithful to us and I am thankful for that.

        My pastor (PC USA) is very conservative and has been fighting the denominational changes going on there, but he retires soon and I’ve known I had to leave that denomination for a number of years now because it no longer adheres to biblical teaching even if my pastor does. It just happens that my church search coincided with discovering that no, I’m not crazy, I’m being emotionally abused!

        But I still need to leave to be the person God is calling me to be. I want to find a Bible believing, preaching church, but many of those are quite scary for me now, but I can’t stay where I am now because the denomination has basically left me.

      • Anne

        Still Scared, I am glad you have found a safe and good church that is supportive and helping you grow and that it is SG, is encouraging. And that you are in a place where you can challenge them as well, to learn and grow. The SG church I attended is one a friend of mine has been a member of for several years and she loves it and she and her husband have a loving, nuturing and apparently healthy relationship. She was also the first one to say to me that my husband had a “heart” problem, not a behavior problem and all the outwardly nice behavior for the time meant nothing if his heart had not changed (ie. true repentance) for how he’s treated me and a desire to make restitution with no strings was not present. Something that has now been repeated by several counselors and my kids.

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