A Cry For Justice

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

A mark of a true Christian is that he doesn’t always follow those in church leadership

“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” (John 10:1-5)

We have all been taught to obey lawful authority – or at least I hope we have. God places certain authorities over us: civil government, church leaders, parents, and so on. Of course the arenas of those authorities are also strictly limited by God and when they overstep their bounds, they lose their authority and need not be obeyed.

Notice in the Lord Jesus’s words above that he tells us there are false shepherds who pose as true shepherds but who, in fact, are thieves and robbers. God the Father has not called them nor sent them. They are counterfeits and their only goal is to serve themselves lamb chops.  Christ’s sheep however are given the ability to know the true Shepherd’s voice and they follow Him when they hear Him. A stranger, they simply will not follow. You see this thing in your faithful Fido if you have one. He hears your voice and comes running. But a stranger? He sounds the alarm and stands off at a distance.

What we are largely saying in all the articles posted here at ACFJ is what most all of you are saying as well: THERE ARE A LOT OF VOICES CLAIMING TO SPEAK FOR CHRIST IN THE CHURCHES, BUT WE DO NOT RECOGNIZE THEM! We do not buy it when someone in a pulpit insists that God forbids divorce for abuse. We do not buy it when such voices tell us we must reconcile with an abuser or we are guilty of unforgiveness. Nope. We say that is not Jesus speaking. And we aren’t going to follow such a voice.

In fact, we go further. We say that there is a very high probability that voices speaking like this belong to the thieves and robbers Jesus warned us about. They are in their religion game to get, not to give. To use, not to serve.

We do not know such voices. We will not follow them.

40 Comments

  1. Sandy

    I will assume then, that we shouldn’t follow a pastor who has written you off and believes the lies of the abuser when you met with him to call the abuser out with what the abuser is doing to our family, and now could care if you ever come back to church? Where you have to meet with the other church leaders (from two other churches) because they want to know why we are in disagreement and why we aren’t going to church and you only pray that someone will believe you and will not think you are mean, not loving, no grace and unChristlike because you called the abuser out? We will meet once more in hopes to save our child, and help restore the church….is this what you are talking about 🙂

    • Jeff Crippen

      Yes, Sandy, exactly.

  2. Sometimes I think that some people enter the pastorate simply so they can control and have a spiritual excuse for it. Seminaries tend to encourage that idea, so that instead of the priesthood of the believer, it is the priesthood over the believer!

  3. healingInHim

    It is the desire to respect authority and especially to trust those in ‘spiritual leadership’ that has led many to suffer greatly.
    Yes, ACFJ, you have heard us cry out, “THERE ARE A LOT OF VOICES CLAIMING TO SPEAK FOR CHRIST IN THE CHURCHES, BUT WE DO NOT RECOGNIZE THEM!”

  4. MaxGrace

    Thanks yet again!! I can’t believe I kept trying to fit what seemed so wrong (demanding that abused women stay married). I struggled with the condemnation that comes to the victims, and to any of us who think differently), with what I knew was right. (Get them away from the situation).
    I struggled for years trying to make myself “conform” to what was being taught in many pulpits, and yet struggling to understand why ,in my deepest thoughts and heart that it seemed so very wrong. It was like trying to fit that square peg into a round hole.
    NO doubt it was the Holy Spirit checking me on it. Glad to know I heard his voice and wasn’t crazy. (or rebellious against God – which is always inferred) We forget the power of those in the pulpit or media.
    God hates divorce they said. And I was squashed. Did I need to repent? Did I not have enough faith that God would intervene and miraculously save that nice “born again man who just probably has an anger problem?” who “just needs prayer” who “needs his wife to submit and she will win him over” Or “maybe he is bi-polar and just needs little bit of meds?” Or the best one. – “hurting people hurt other people. The poor guy”
    I think I grew an 11 between my eyes from my furloughed brow trying to see how it all went together. Sigh
    I’m grateful for this site for many reasons.

    • M&M

      Dear MaxGrace, it’s sad that they only acknowledged part of 1 Corinthians 7 about “winning over” the husband. Not far from that is “how do you know if you will save your husband?” Which implies Not your fault if he continues on the wrong path. ❤

      • Still Reforming

        M&M (love that screen name!),
        I always, always, always read that verse the wrong way – the other way around – as if by suffering more, how did I not know that he might in fact come to Christ by my faithful suffering or endurance? No more.
        Thank you for the reminder of how I now understand the verse: “Not your fault if he continues on the wrong path.”

    • Dear sister, those people who told you:

      “hurting people hurt other people. The poor guy”

      Here is a post that addresses that saying: ‘Hurting People Hurt People’.

      And on the question of how God feels about divorce, here is my post God hates divorce? Not Always.

      one more thing, I suggest you might like to give thought to your screen name. If you think it might identify you to those who know you, you can ask TWBTC to change it at the back ofh the blog. twbtc.acfj@gmail.com

      • MaxGrace

        Thank you, Barbara for those links, and your suggestion regarding screen name. I am a little cyber challenged and didn’t realize that my name would be published. About to follow the links.

      • I’ve changed your screen name in your older comments to the one you’ve started to use now.

  5. Anonymous

    I am blessed that my home church of nearly 20 years believes, supports, encourages and loves me unconditionally. I was in another state with my abuser and the church we attended there ( a long time church of my husband before we were married) is completely duped by this wolf in sheep’s clothes. My abuser is telling me now (we are separated) that they are encouraging him to divorce me. He has unlimited access to them and has told horrible lies about me. I was puzzled when my husband and I would greet the pastor after the Sunday service and those two would embrace and chat and exchange handshakes and good old-boy back-slaps. I would stand there without ever receiving a hello, eye contact and quite frankly, its as if I was invisible. I knew at that point this pastor was completely duped. More interesting, this pastor has never ONCE met with me privately or with us together as a couple; not once! What about Proverbs 17:18: “The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him.” I never had this opportunity.

    Just recently my abuser asked me to return to the state where he resides to meet with the church elders and leaders together. I agreed but with one condition: That I would be afforded the same as my abuser…to meet with the leaders privately and then as a couple. My abuser said that will NEVER happen!! And that was the end of the discussion. Telling, don’t you think? My abuser would never ever want me to tell who / what he really is. He fears they would believe me.

    Now in hindsight, I see God’s hand of mercy even in this – especially in this! Had my abuser agreed to this, and now that I have the information from ACFJ, a counseling session with a covert narcissist sociopath will only lead me in to deeper danger. You can bet when we would arrive home and behind closed doors, I would receive even more abuse, rage and violence than before. Often times we do not understand what God is doing in the midst of the storm but when we look back, we see He was with us every step of the way pouring out mercy upon mercy. Life with my abuser was / is straight from the devil but where I continue to be amazed, is just how much my Lord has protected me from. It may be better that I do not know!

    • Jeff Crippen

      Anonymous- Thank you for sharing your experience. It is very, very typical to see abuse victims treated in this horrid manner by pastors and churches. In my opinion, your ex’s “pastor” is only partially duped. In fact he is a member of the good ol’ boys’ club in his mentality. He looks down on women. It’s my bet that even if you had the opportunity to tell what your ex really is, that pastor and most if not all of the church leaders would still not believe you even in the face of mountains of evidence. Because they don’t want to believe the truth.

  6. Still Reforming

    The more I hear these testimonies, the more I realize how very narrow that door is through which Christ’s true sheep enter. It’s been quite the wake-up call to realize that on that wide path walk many a pastor and professing Christian. I’m thankful to the Lord that my child is learning this at a young age.

  7. anonymous

    Mr. Crippen, what’s even more horrifying, my abuser is an ordained minister !!!

    • healingInHim

      Oh, Anonymous. ((hugs))

    • Dear anonymous, you may like to know that we have a tag for pastors’ wives. Perhaps some of the posts under that tag may be especially helpful to you. You are certainly not alone!

      • anonymous

        Barbara, thanks for directing me to this site for pastors’ wives. My abuser is very well known, here and abroad. I can use the support! Blessings.

  8. Sunflower

    I sometimes meet with the local Lutheran pastor because we seem to be ‘kindred spirits’ so to speak, though I go to another church, mostly because they need a pianist. One day she told me that when she went to classes (she went into the ministry a bit later in life than most) one instructor told them that the ministry attracts narcissists. Probably nothing new to anyone here, but it was something that made her cautious of her relationships with other pastors, rightly so. She had been asking me about a Baptist pastor whom my husband and I had been counseling with and who really messed it up with us. And I was confused. I am no longer confused. 🙂 Especially after observing more closely his relationship with his own wife. He doesn’t like her going out with other ladies. He cuts her off when she tries to talk. When I asked her one day if she didn’t agree that we women know when we are truly loved or not, she looked scared, looked at him (as if for permission to speak), and slowly nodded. He then proceeded to loudly explain to my husband and me how shallow she was. Has anyone here ever had the temptation to smack a pastor? Never mind the nasty emails I got from him. (I left that church after the emails)

    • healingInHim

      I always sensed something wrong within the ‘c’hurch as I would witness various forms of spousal abuse being ignored. Husbands and wives outright mocking or scolding their spouses in front of others. Nothing was done. Now that I have spoken out against such treatment, I’m being ignored or made to feel that I’m a ‘perfectionist’ or too legalistic?? Legalistic for expecting Ephesians 5 to be lived out in flesh and blood? I don’t think so!

  9. Bitter But Getting Better

    Pastor Crippen, you are a BRAVE man. So many will just not speak the truth. Thank you for continually affirming our pain, and the decisions we have made not to listen to these wolves. What you say is against everything we have been taught and believe. So I personally need to hear you say this again and again.
    I see things better through analogies and the dog one helped make it clearer.
    Blessings!

    • Herjourney

      Jeff
      What if the abuser has revealed his true nature?
      By that I mean demon showing itself to the victim.
      Is there a way I can communicate with you out side this forum?
      I would like to talk to you.
      Thanks

  10. a prodigal daughter returns

    Church can be a place of literal brainwashing about male authority which women with a sincere desire to follow Christ are susceptible too. Passages that promote “submission” can be terribly twisted and when harped on enough over the years become the narrow definition of what it means to be a female Christian. In my experience with church the sole definition in life is determined by how “submitted” you are to tyrannical demands of the males that have spiritual authority

    While we don’t wear burqas in the West, in some reformed evangelical circles, women have burqas on their souls, placed there by men and other women that have something to gain by collusion with male power.

    Things I was taught as if they were gospel truth (and scriptures were used to support them.
    1. Females brought the fall of the earth on, the prime responsibility for evil rests on them
    2. Listening to satan in the garden proved that women are “easily deceived” and therefore not to be trusted
    3. Men that listen to women (and their wives in particular) are open to the lies of satan
    4. When not under (and I mean doormat) male authority women are susceptible to getting ripped off by satan and becoming a wolf in the flock themselves.
    5. Women should not work outside the home because their children will go to hell if they do,
    6. Women shouldn’t pray with their head uncovered meaning without a male authority in their lives they have no business praying, as if they need a “male priest” in the home to legitimize their existence as a Christian

    As I was raised in a completely misogynist home those doctrines felt sad, but correct because really that bs was all I ever knew. I feel deeply that God basically didn’t like women and that they were created as the afterthought, domestic servant to the one that mattered in life, the male.

    I had little will to live after decades of this brainwashing which certainly serves a narcissistic abuser quite well. But the God that saves the oppressed came to me through His word with Isaiah 54 while I lay on a bathroom floor in a hospital after an attempt on my life with this

    11 O afflicted one, passed back and forth, and not comforted,
    Look! I am about to set your stones in antimony,
    and lay your foundations with sapphires.
    12 And I’ll make your battlements of rubies,
    and your gates of jewels,
    and all your walls of precious stones.
    13 Then all your children will be taught by the Lord,
    and great will be your children’s prosperity.
    14 “In righteousness you’ll be established;
    you will be far from tyranny,
    for you won’t be afraid,
    and from terror,
    for it won’t come near you.
    15 Watch! If anyone does attack you,
    it will not be from me;
    whoever may attack you will fall because of you.

    God spoke to me in that moment clearly that I needed “new foundations” and he was going to lay them. What I was experiencing was the pain of excavation, digging up the old false foundations that men were favored by God and superior to women. The false foundation if a truth comes out of the mouth of a woman its not truth because only men can teach, preach or know truth. Excavation is excruciating and it means that I have been cast off and alone and find little fellowship in the world. I find fellowship where they speak truth, this is my church, right here as a result. Truth. It sets you free but you might find yourself in an ocean alone much of the time, at least this has been my experience.

    • Bitter But Getting Better

      Dear Dear Prodigal Returns, what wisdom you shared. (Burqas of the soul) Isn’t it amazing how God snatches us out of the grip of death and sets us on the Rock? I have loved that scripture (Isaiah 54) but not till now did I understand new levels of insight into its riches. Thank you for sharing that.

      Yes it is a lonely journey but Pastor Crippen has said that the prophets of old lived separate and in caves sometimes. I don’t remember his exact words but something to that effect. I’m glad you were unsuccessful in your attempt to end your beautiful life. I totally understand the lack of will to live or even to function.

      To all of us He says: A bruised reed He will not break, and a smoking flax He will not quench. Charles Spurgeon, a great man of the faith, who suffered his whole life with depression says of this passage that the tiny little ember (smoking flax) God blows on and it becomes a raging flame. Very much like your gates of jewels and walls of precious stones. What a heritage we truly have in Christ!

      This is my church as well and precious Prodigal I love being here with you. Blessings to you!

      • the prophets of old lived separate and in caves sometimes.

        Fancy locusts for dinner, anyone?

      • a prodigal daughter returns

        I’m humbled and moved by your response, thank you Bitter but getting better

    • MaxGrace

      Dear Prodigal Daughter. I just started to cry when I read your comment. So deep so precious. How He lets us know through His Word, how different His ways are from the ways of men. I was in an abusive marriage. My daughter was in an abusive marriage. . I have since seen things in churches that make me want to weep.
      Right before I went into a shelter, (in 1991), I got up very early to read my bible, as I did every morning. I would read so many chapters from the old testament, and so many from the new testament. In fact, I read through the entire bible four times in two years, because I knew there was help for me spending time with Him in His Word. In the face of rejection that I won’t go into, struggling with all of the angst, anxiety, guilt, regrets, confusion, panic, etc., due to my marriage, my mother did something that hurt me so deeply.
      The next day, I opened my bible and was flipping to my next chapter, but stopped at Isaiah 49:15 ASV “Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yea, these may forget, yet will I not forget thee.” So I know it was out of context, but I have to say, I do understand how it felt that something in His Word came alive and suddenly the truth and beauty of that scripture became an intimate consolation, an eternal principle for me, as His child, and for all His Children. For that moment, for that time of pain, it was a living Word that brought unspeakable comfort and hope. And it has never left me.
      I was in a church where the women were very much treated as you described. Thank you for sharing your heart. I have known the loneliness that you speak of. I pray that the Lord will bring those of like precious faith who will care for you, and be there for you in prayer, and be a support in everyday friendship.

  11. a prodigal daughter returns

    Yes Barbara locusts and the knowledge that I’m not alone in the cave, it is all I need

  12. Still Reforming

    I’d rather live in this cave with God than in a mansion without Him, and I’m very thankful that He has provided cave-mates here at this site to share it with me. Oh, and Barbara? May I please have my locusts dipped in chocolate with some powdered sugar on top? Thank you!

    • Herjourney

      Now I can relate to Jesus as He had no place to call home. He often went to a secluded place to commune with His father. He knows the pain we are going through. If not for the cross of suffering and shame. How could He intercede on our behalf now? Oh how we as broken people could only trust what God is doing .. Walking by faith pleases the father! He sees … Yet we don’t trust His awesome continual guidance. His love behooves me.
      His timing is perfect.
      This forum is a God send.
      Walking the narrow way is not for sissy’s.

      • Still Reforming

        “Walking the narrow way is not for sissy’s.”

        Testify! 🙂

    • I’ll pray about that one, SR!

  13. Bitter But Getting Better

    I would love to hit the like button but seems like I have to have a wordpress website. Is there an easier way? Not a techy type so I don’t know. Read beginner instructions but didn’t see any info. Thanks in advance!

    • Hi BBGB,

      Great question! One I plan to answer in an upcoming Blog News post.

      To answer your question now: Unfortunately to use the “comment like” feature the commenter needs to have a wordpress account. This is a requirement put in place by wordpress.com. ACFJ has no control over that. Wish we did.

      • Bitter But Getting Better

        Thank you!

      • Barb makes a good point. If you do want to be able to use the “comment like” feature you can create a wordpress account and have simply a shell of a blog. One other option is to get a wordpress account without a blog. WordPress calls this “sans-blog”. Here is a link that would help you do that if you are interested.

    • You do have to have a WordPress account to hit the like button, but that account does not have to have your own blog posts, it can be merely a shell, with nothing in it that would identify you. As an example, here is a link to out team member Wendell’s WordPress account: https://tbuzzard.wordpress.com/

      You will see that he has written no posts on it, and it gives no identifying details about his name or any links to any other places he is active on the internet. When you set up a WordPress account, you can choose what you want visible to the public.

  14. Bitter But Getting Better

    Thanks Barb & Twbtc for the helpful info. Will try it out!

  15. just thinking

    This might be relevant and helpful to anyone dealing with an abusive or manipulative pastor. My husband and I were subjected to a very manipulative and cowardly pastor who became rather spiritually abusive; we got caught between him and a controlling woman who we suspect he was trying to use us to covertly displace. It’s quite the story but I won’t tell the whole thing here. Suffice to say I learned some things about myself as well as about recognizing signs of trouble with a pastor. In the end, we decided the godliest and most honorable thing we could do was to leave quietly. We’d already stepped down from leading worship for a while. So we stayed home to talk that day and realized that we were both utterly miserable and felt like the bars of a cage had been slowly closing around us.

    The pastor called us immediately after the church service on my husband’s cell phone. I could hear him yelling and screaming at my husband, verbally abusing him, from clear across the driveway. Then he switched from coercive tactics to a wheedling, almost parental or loverlike tone, as if entreating a wayward child to submit or a run away lover to just see it as all a misunderstanding and come back. It was creepy to say the least! His last gambit was to ream us out for not being at church, yelling that we were on the worship team, even though we’d actually stepped down. Then he demanded that we come to a meeting with him and this other lady. I refused and immediately felt guilty. All the years I’d been in church, I’d been taught that this was rebellion and sin to refuse to meet with a pastor to solve relational problems. Yet I also knew that he could not be trusted to be impartial. I’d already experienced him taking shots at me from the pulpit and when I confronted him about some things that I thought were unbiblical, as well as his failure to disclose to this other lady his plans to make a change of leadership ( we agreed to take on a role as long as he was up front with the current person and they were on board, which he promised he would follow through with), he began to take sides against me and treat me like a threat, taking shots at me from the pulpit and making snide remarks to me when no one else was near to hear. So I doubted that the outcome of this meeting would be anything but scapegoating with me as the goat.

    I asked God if I was wrong not to go and immediately David’s encounter with Saul came to mind. David knew Saul’s character and that Saul had evil intentions towards him. But he also refused to attack Saul for Saul was indeed given the kingship by God. Yet when Saul asked David to come out of hiding and present himself to the king, David remained out of reach of Saul and did not agree to put himself in Saul’s hands.. I felt greatly reassurred that I was not sinning by refusing to put myself in harm’s way with a manipulative pastor who was being spiritually abusive and dishonest. There is much more to this story of course than I’ve shared here but this is how I believe I was led in the matter.

    • Anonymous

      Just Thinking – Your comments are one of the many reasons I don’t feel safe in the ‘c’hurch. I am NOT ALLOWED TO QUESTION the teaching or intentions from the pulpit or from those who lead the Bible studies. For several years I am now sensing that many feel the breakdown in my marriage was because I’m too legalistic. (they refuse to hear about the sexual and emotional abuse) All I desire is that in order to be a part of a so-called church family is that I be allowed the same freedom to question others as I provide Scriptural proof texts or resources available from sound Biblical ministries.
      In the past, I have also been preached at from the pulpit – my spouse would not defend me. After the service others would phone and imply that they knew the preaching was directed at me and yet they too, would not defend me even though they had phoned to say that they agreed with what I had presented to the pastoral staff.
      I also witnessed questionable bookkeeping transactions along with certain individuals being praised from the pulpit whom of course were well on their way to being the pastor’s comrades.
      I appreciate the way you stated, ” I felt greatly reassured that I was not sinning by refusing to put myself in harm’s way …”
      The only way I can put myself out of harms way from manipulative people within our ‘c’hurches is by not entering in.

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