A Cry For Justice

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

A Sure Sign that Something is Wrong in a Church – Failure to Care for Widows and Orphans

Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, a complaint by the Hellenists arose against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution. And the twelve summoned the full number of the disciples and said, “It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables. Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty. But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” And what they said pleased the whole gathering, and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, and Prochorus, and Nicanor, and Timon, and Parmenas, and Nicolaus, a proselyte of Antioch. These they set before the apostles, and they prayed and laid their hands on them. And the word of God continued to increase, and the number of the disciples multiplied greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith. (Acts 6:1-7)

One of the first ministries that went into effect in the newly baptized Christian church after Pentecost was the ministry to widows. Due to apparent partiality, a problem of favoritism arose and had to be dealt with. Men full of faith and the Holy Spirit were selected to oversee the ministry and God continued to bless the church.

This tells us that the Holy Spirit directs His people to care for the oppressed – widows and orphans. The thing is even connected directly with the growth of the church. And it tells us something else: When a local church neglects the protection and care of widows and orphans (like abuse victims), the Holy Spirit is not operative, is not being obeyed, and whatever “growth” is occurring is most probably NOT true growth of the body of Christ produced by the Spirit. 

Now consider this conclusion carefully. This means then that IF (as we believe to be the case) most local churches are not effecting justice upon and caring for abuse victims in their midst, then at best they are quenching and disobeying the Holy Spirit, and even more – Christ may well have departed from them long ago. For all the show and glamour of senior pastors, multiple staff members, whazoo worship teams, new people being “won to Christ” and new buildings going up, if such a place is dealing out the scenario of injustice to the oppressed in the all too typical manner we write about on this blog and which so many of you have suffered through, then the Spirit of Christ has left the temple.

Is that an exaggeration? An overstatement of the case? I bet some people will claim that it is. But to them, I say, look at the Word of God. How can it be denied in light of all the Lord has to say about caring for widows and orphans, in both Old and New Testaments, and in light of what we have shown here in Acts 6….how can it be denied that any church not faithfully rendering true justice and aid to victims, including dispensing justice to their abusers is only a hollow shell from which Christ has departed?

14 Comments

  1. rebecca

    In one of the first-person accounts we received for “Unholy Charade: Unmasking the Domestic Abuser in the Church,” a young woman made an appeal to her dad, who was an elder at the time (or maybe at a different time, but I know he was an elder at some point) Here are her words:

    One Sunday afternoon, my sister worked up the courage to ask Dad if we could visit a long-time family friend who lived just up the road. She’d recently been widowed and we wanted to give her a bit of love and encouragement. But Dad lit into us, accusing us of being worldly, discontent, and out of control. “God said women are to be keepers AT HOME,” he retorted. “But no, we don’t care about obeying Him”—his tone was mocking now—“all we care about is running off to do our own thing whenever we feel like it.”

  2. Mark

    I’m beginning to believe this is the exact point where evil is practically confronted and revival begins.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Mark – Your words here sum it up precisely. We have been trying to tell churches and pastors and Christians that if they truly want to expose, understand, recognize, and confront evil in their pews, THIS subject of abuse is the place to begin. Often they think it is just another “social activist program” that people like us are all fired up about and its fine for us but then they have their ministries they are busy with. But it is correct to say that the evil of abuse is in a way a more fundamental wickedness. A kind of “pure evil” that reveals to us the very mindset of Satan. It lies – he is a liar. It deceives – he is a deceiver. It accuses – he is the accuser of the brethren. It murders – he is a murderer from the beginning. And so we urge people to study abuse, study the abuser, study the tactics of abuse, confront it in their churches and be willing to pay the price of doing so. And you are correct – if the church would do so, we would see the Spirit of Christ return and perhaps even a massive revival of true religion visit us once more.

  3. Still Reforming

    No exaggeration in this post whatsoever. No overstatement made. Rather, it is a sobering warning to those who think they’re “loving the abuser to Christ” or “not taking a side” or walking past the abuse victim and patting her (or him) on the head saying, “Be warm and well fed.” In “not taking a side,” they are siding with evil.

  4. paperjesus

    I’m a little concerned about being quick to condemn an entire congregation. Even in my case… My abuser was my former pastor. He and his favorite elder “confronted” my husband and I. He rewrote my family’s and the church’s history to show why I was so unqualified for ministering to anyone and why he was overly qualified to lead. He told me I was “following a demon of light”… That I wasn’t a Christian and I needed to relearn Christianity. By the time that meeting was done, I’d had a “ghosting”/dissociative experience, told him that to believe him I’d have to think black was white and white was black, still accepted his words (since he was the pastor of 150 person church), and then had an anxiety attack with a migraine upon arriving at home.
    2 years of counseling and 3 more years of walking in grace and living out that healing…
    Come to find that my good friend (who attended my old church still) was being abused by her husband. My husband and I helped get her and her kids out many months ago. We have decided to stand by her no matter what. My former pastor is counseling her husband. My former church has shunned her and sometimes me by proxy. My family (that still attends that church) tell me that she is crazy and he is right. They tell me they think she’s no longer a Christian…
    I’ve worked through this issue for months. While I can condemn their actions, I cannot determine their status before the Lord. They are acting out of their belief that to leave the marriage is to leave the Lord. I used to think that way too. I was ignorant and completely misguided. I was wrong. I’m not going to turn around and now accuse them of the same thing. I have to leave that up to God. That church has patriarchy running rampant- and if they do not teach it from the front, they are not condemning it. Now that I know what abuse looks like… I pray there is a mass exodus from that church of abused women. That they are able to escape. That women stop propagating the abuse on each other! The church has doubled in size, built a new addition, etc. My heart breaks for the people…

    • Anonymous

      Your comment reminds me why I no longer attend church, how abusive an entire system can be, how childish and evil wrong teachings that become believed and then internalized can destroy a person’s entire way of perceiving truth and reality and how people who have no truth in them control those who do with “biblical” rules that are actually from the evil one. Thank you for reminding me how sweet Jesus and his word are to my soul and my heart now that I am away from all that and I can finally hear him. I need Him so much.

      • Still Reforming

        Anonymous,
        I’m having a hard time finding a church where I can call home as well. There’s nothing locally that fits Reformed theology, and even among non-Reformed teaching that is close to where I am comfortable, it’s a looooong drive, and even there I recently heard how “Jesus loves the shooter” (Charleston church shootings) and “unspoken prayer request for marriages in the church.” The latter just made me bristle, as I heard “marriage” lifted up over and above individuals. Maybe that’s my own sensitivity, but I fear a dumbing down in the church by and large.

  5. Oh, the irony. Our former “pastor” once preached a sermon on this passage, using it to justify his neglect of the hurting.

  6. a prodigal daughter returns

    This brings to mind the passage in Matthew 25:30-35, at the end of the age when God calls all to account for their lives. He bases his separation of the righteous and the unrighteous on their treatment of the ‘least of these”. Those followers that responded to and took care of the stranger, the sick, the prisoner, the hungry the thirsty are welcomed as His followers those that did not, yet claimed Him Lord, are rejected. As an abuse survivor I know what it means to be hungry physically, spiritually, hungry for fellowship, hungry for compassion and belonging and finding that the least likely place to have any such need of my life met was church and among Christians. Living self satisfied lives in their Christian Disneylands they have no room for the hungry or stranger. I pray that I do, and at times have in my own poverty.

    Matthew 7 another statement by Christ says of those and their showy but void of true mercy, ministries…. those that get acclaim yet cost nothing, religious exercises of piety that do not relieve the afflicted existing instead to gain the praise of man
    ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in your name and expel demons in your name and do lots of miracles in your name?’ 23 Then I’ll tell them, ‘I’ve never known you. Get away from me, you people who do wrong.’

    In fact, not only is there no relief for the poor in their midst they heap on more oppression. The falling away from Christ in this nation is most clearly evident by its hard heart toward the poor in the church. That is where the church will be judged.

  7. IamMyBeloved's

    Yes. So many people believe that ability to add on, lights-sound-action, huge events and extra money mean Church growth, but it certainly does not mean that.

    I wonder if we stood each Church in America up against the commands of Scripture and looked closely at each one, how many true Churches we would actually find. I know there are no perfect Churches, but it would be interesting to see how many of them actually even cared about what God had to say to them about what they should be doing and look like.

    I cannot imagine how heart-breaking and angering it must be for God to watch His own broken and abused children be mistreated and re-victimized by those who claim to be Christ’s, yet won’t lift a finger to help rescue or make safe victims of abuse and even in fact, throw those victims from the “c”hurch.

  8. emmellkaycee

    I am one of those women who was ‘widowed’ by an abusing and abandoning husband who also ‘orphaned’ his child, leaving me to be a single-parent. Our “c”hurch at the time stood completely in the camp of aiding and abetting the abuser, perpetrating too many spiritual evils against my child and I to even name. So thoroughly were we unserved by the Spirit of God through that church and its pastors, elders, etc… 20 years ago that to this day my now adult child is still so negatively impacted that they have yet to sort out their animosity for “c”hurch. Frankly, I doubt either of us will ever set foot inside another brick and mortar. God surrounds me with His Spiritual ministering, and gives me opportunity to minister to others as well … all without the need of an organized congregation. And for that, I am grateful!

    • a prodigal daughter returns

      Emmellkaycee, I am with you. It is disheartening to watch abusers prosper and remain in good standing in the church, some of them moving on with a new partner, while the congregation applauds. It is disheartening to find the church the most unsafe place in town for the abuse victim and be the one standing outside the doors, unwelcome. It helps me to know I’m not alone with this church estrangement.
      As much as Jesus is my only reason for existence I find no welcome in his supposed house of worship. It is there happy couples (or lying ones) parade their marriages, marriage is upheld as a central tenant of the gospel and abuse survivors are scorned. It is a place where the injustice is not resisted, or believed and where the oppressed experience condemnation.
      A relative of mine, profoundly abusive, had an affair with a church member while his wife sat in a pew. He donated such a pile of money in this fundamental church that he never for one minute went without their support and approval. The pastoral counselor he met with was himself having an affair so it was all peachy since God is forgiving of every one but the battered wife. No wonder Jesus speaks of spitting the lukewarm church out of his mouth

      • Still Reforming

        a prodigal daughter returns,
        I saw the same thing in the church I just left. When the pastor arrived about eight years ago, a couple in the church was just then breaking up. The wife asked the husband for a divorce because he was draining them financially; She was the only breadwinner, and he was hanging out with the music director (the same music director who refused to read my prayer request detailing my own husband’s secret-keeping), cozying up to the latter’s family, garnering allies. Meanwhile, the wife felt that after years of trying to get her husband to hold and keep a job, and becoming increasingly suspicious of the guy’s Internet use and secret-keeping, as well as his ongoing expenses racking up their debt, she had no choice but to divorce.
        In her conversations with me, she actually expressed hope that they would stay connected and maybe if he got himself to provide for himself, they could restart somehow. Instead, he got married within four weeks of the divorce (having met someone on the Internet). And where was this championed? Within our church – especially by the pastor and music leader. I remember the almost-Thanksgiving service in which the pastor was talking about things for which we can all be thankful, and in the list, the pastor exclaimed, pointing to the ex-husband in a front row, “And we can rejoice that our brother is getting remarried!” I was shocked, actually. I refused to attend the wedding, and I called the pastor’s wife to express my concern. She defended the pastor saying, “Well, all I know is that the wife filed for divorce.” Nobody really cared about the truth or the details.
        In fact, shortly before the divorce, the prior pastor (who had tried unsuccessfully to counsel the couple) told the wife to apologize to me and to another woman in whom she had confided. I told her she need not apologize; That’s what we should do – listen and bear one another’s burdens, but the “church” didn’t stick up for her. They supported the non-working remarrying-in-a-heartbeat husband.. That church was – and remains – a very patriarchal structure. I had no idea what patriarchy was until I went through it myself with that church.

  9. ForMyDaughtersSake

    “how can it be denied that any church not faithfully rendering true justice and aid to victims, including dispensing justice to their abusers is only a hollow shell from which Christ has departed?”

    Amen!

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