A Cry For Justice

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

Getting “Gossip” Wrong Will Silence Voices Exposing Evil

Today I received a copy of a small book written by Pastor Marc J. Grimaldi entitled Gossip: The Church Killer. It included a letter from Pastor Grimaldi which indicated he had sent out a copy of his book to pastors such as myself. He said in the letter:

For the ten years that I have served in the gospel ministry, I have found gossip to be one of the deadliest sins, which eats away at the life of Christ’s church. It is amazing to see how a single conversation even, can bring a wave of disruption, with many hearts being infected by the spread of gossip, leading to major problems in the local church. Sadly, gossip is so underrated and precautions must be taken to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace, by inoculating our church members with a thorough understanding of the nature and danger of gossip….It is my hope that this short work will be a valuable tool for bringing the awareness of the danger of gossip to the local church, so that we might consciously seek to put this venomous asp to death, counteracting it with words that actually build up the body, rather than tear it down.

Now, I have no reason to believe that Pastor Grimaldi’s goal here is anything but what he has stated — to protect the church. However, most all of our readers here at ACFJ will agree that abusers absolutely love to accuse their victims of gossip if the victims tell anyone about the evils being done to them. And pastors and church members often do the same when an abuse victim comes forward to expose the evil and ask for help. “You are gossiping. Go home and respect your spouse.”

So my radar goes up when this topic of gossip comes up.  Listen now as Pastor Grimaldi writes on the subject –

Pastor Stewart arrived home and sat at the dining room table next to his wife. It was obvious to Mrs. Steward that something was wrong because the good reverend was clearly aloof and somewhat downcast. Earlier in the day, Mrs. Stewart knew that her husband was preparing to have a difficult meeting with a man who had never been overly supportive of his ministry. Well, apparently, something had happened at that meeting that had discouraged the pastor in some way. It was obvious that things did not go well, so Mrs. Stewart asked, ‘How’d it go?’ Then Pastor Stewart poured out his heart to his wife and explained all that had happened at the meeting. He had shared with her all of the horrible things that Mr. Evans (the man) had said to and about him at the meeting.

There are two very significant things related to this particular story. First, it closely resembles a very real life situation that has actually taken place. I know this because I am the pastor in this story….Second, I learned a very important lesson on that occasion: pastors have to be very careful when speaking to their wives about matters related to the church.

I wanted to begin this chapter addressing pastors first, so that all who read this book will clearly understand that gossip is a serious and dangerous matter against which all people must be on guard. This is not just for the layman. This is for all Christians….Well then, back to the story.

What is so bad about what this pastor has done in the above scenario? Doesn’t a pastor have the right to at least confide in his own wife with respect to the hardships he faces in the ministry? Furthermore, pastor or not, aren’t the two ‘one flesh’ if they are married, giving them the right to share these kinds of things with each other? Well, here’s the problem. By the grace of God, having watch over his own heart (which is hard enough), the pastor can wrestle through such pain and hurt on his own (or with the help of someone who does not know Mr. Evans) and come back to the place in Christ, where love and compassion can still be shown to Mr. Evans. The pastor has no choice but to work through this matter in love because he has been directly involved in the controversy. However, by speaking to his wife, he has now influenced another heart, a heart that would naturally (and especially) be sensitive to the pastor, who happens to be her husband.

What exactly has Pastor Stewart done by telling his wife all of the (true) details about what had happened during his meeting with Mr. Evans? He has created a battle within his own wife; a very selfish, careless, and inconsiderate thing to do (though perhaps unintentional). Even if Pastor Stewart works this all out and finds rest and grace in Christ, is it right to automatically assume that Mrs. Stewart will do the same? What will happen in the heart of Mrs. Stewart the next time she faces Mr. Evans at church and he swings by her with a smile and a ‘hello’? If Pastor Stewart had just worked this out on his own, he could have spared his wife such potential hardship, hurt, and possible bitterness. Also, what if Mrs. Stewart, out of her own hurt, opens up to someone else, perhaps a close friend or her parents? You see, the potential for a schism can be fostered by the lack of discretion used on the part of an ailing pastor.

What we have set before us here in his book is a formula that most surely will enable and empower evil in its deception and secrecy and keep the victims of evil in bondage indefinitely.

  • What message will certainly come across to any abuse victims in the pew when the pastor preaches these things from his pulpit? I can tell you. “If you are being abused at home by your husband, you need to rely on the grace of God and prayer to see you through it and you must not tell anyone about it. If you do, you are guilty of gossip.” Pastor Grimaldi may not intend that result, but I can tell you absolutely that is precisely what will be communicated to these victims.
  • Pastor Grimaldi fears “schism.” Church splits and divisions. His solution? Keep Mr. Evans’ evil (and that is most certainly what it is, evil) quiet. Zip your lip about what this wicked man has been doing for a long, long time. But schism needs to occur in such a church! Mr. Evans and his allies need to be expelled.
  • Victims of evil will certainly be falsely guilted by this concept of gossip. What will be communicated to them is “you are the real problem, not your abuser. Your attitude is the issue here. You must patiently and silently endure.” And the wickedness will continue as the abuser is strongly enabled by all this.
  • Pastor Grimaldi’s “no gossip” formula here is actually going to CAUSE schism. First of all, he is going to experience schism in his own marriage. “What’s wrong, dear? You seem so downcast?” “Nothing.” He becomes a husband keeping secrets from his wife, the very one who is given him by God to be his ezer – his warrior helper. And then the wrong kind of schism in the church will occur. The righteous will be eventually driven out.
  • Mr. Evans is a classic factious and divisive man. Such a person is to be warned, then put out of the church and the church INFORMED about his wickedness in detail with the scriptural instruction that we are not to have anything to do with such a man. See 1 Cor 5, plus these two overlooked verses in Titus:
    As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned. (Titus 3:10-11)
  • This kind of  teaching is going to cause pastors (and Christians victimized by evil) to be suckered in by a classic tactic of the enemy’s agents. Isolation and secrecy. Notice that Mr. Evans wanted to meet with the pastor privately. The pastor foolishly agreed (as I have foolishly done so myself before), knowing that this man habitually worked to discourage him. The pastor allowed him to do it again and the pastor must tell no one? That is classic abuser enablement. It is not being wise as a serpent about evil.

There is a second thread of teaching in this book that is problematic as well. Not only will it enable abusers and cause further oppression of victims, but it really sets forth a false notion of just who a Christian is and what a real church is. Christians, says Pastor Grimaldi, must be admonished not to gossip. He says that if there is a church where gossip is rampant, then the church members need to be reminded that gossip is the product of a depraved mind. Yes, it is. But it is not the product of the Christian mind. The Christian is a new creation. The Christian’s mind is not depraved. If there is a “church” that claims to be the body of Christ and yet it is characterized by the sins of a depraved mind, then absolutely there is going to be gossip! But that gossip (reviling) is being done by the wicked who apparently either dominate that church or control it significantly. The solution? Certainly not to be silent about evil, but to announce it from the rooftops so that all will hear and all will know and the wicked will flee because the light of Christ’s truth is too much for them to bear.

Mr. Evans does not need silence. Mr. Evans needs to be called on the carpet before the entire church and short of genuine repentance, put out of the church so that there might be peace. Pastor Grimaldi, I know “Mr. Evans.” I have met people of his spirit many, many times. I have been duped by them and I have been sent into deep despair and discouragement by their evil workings. But I am free of them. I have grown wise about them. I hope the same for you, but I can assure you that the path you are recommending in this book is not the way of wisdom. It will only strengthen the Mr. Evans types in our churches and it will tell his victims that the Lord commands us to be silent about his evil.

Alexander the coppersmith did me great harm; the Lord will repay him according to his deeds. Beware of him yourself, for he strongly opposed our message. (2 Timothy 4:14-15)

*****

If you’ve never commented on this blog before it is important to read our New Users’ Info page because it gives tips for how to guard your safety while commenting on the blog. And if you’re new to this blog we encourage you look at our FAQs.  The New Users Info page and the FAQs can also be found on the top menu bar

Further Reading

Don’t be Guilted by the “Gossip Card”

The false accusation of gossip

The Abuser’s Evil Demands for Secrecy

26 Comments

  1. joepote01

    Grimaldi seems to offer very sound advice…IF one’s goal is to achieve the APPEARANCE of unity at all costs…even at the expense of giving up on ever hoping to achieve true unity based on true love and respect.

    By Grinaldi’s standards, Christ’s actions in the temple court were inexcusable…upsetting the tables of respectable businessman and scattering their merchandise…it’s not like they were doing anything illegal…just sound business practices. Why would Jesus bring such disharmony into God’s house?

    • Renewed Spirit

      Good use of the word APPEARANCES. I met with my Church leaders this past week and feel there is at least some progress being made. The one elder stated one day they may have to say they dealt with the situation poorly. Progress?

      They also said the unity in the congregation is disrupted because I do not sit with the man I married – that is unsettling to others. I say let it.
      The gossip that happens about my situation is what has to be addressed.

      If someone is being mistreated the word used should be ‘informing’.
      Thoughts?

      • They also said the unity in the congregation is disrupted because I do not sit with the man I married – that is unsettling to others. I say let it.

        The exact thing was said to my by my elders when I separated from my first husband.

      • Renewed Spirit

        So are they only appeasing with their words? Not really dealing with it?

      • Yes, it sounds to me that when the elder said, ‘One day we may have to say we dealt with the situation poorly,’ he was just appeasing with his words — he was probably trying to make you feel that he is willing to learn and willing to perhaps admit fault.

        But since the elders have alleged that the unity in the congregation is disrupted because you do not sit with the man you married – and that is unsettling to others in the congregation, they clearly DON’T GET IT. They clearly are putting the church’s image as a higher priority than your safety and your wellbeing. In stating that allegation to you, they are putting subtle pressure on you. They are subtly condemning you for ‘disturbing the rest of the congregation.’ So they’re no putting the blame where it belongs, on the abuser. Instead, they are trying to make you feel responsible for the feelings of others in the congregation.

        They are way way short of understanding the dynamics of abuse and their responsibility as elders to deal with abuse in a righteous and biblical manner.

        You might find it helpful to read our post Non-Negotiables for Effective and Biblical Abuse Ministry. Your elders are no where near up to scratch yet. And from what you’ve described, the chances are, they are not going to come up to scratch. They would need to read Jeff’s book Unholy Charade for starters, and I bet they would refuse to do so. And then they would probably need to read Bancroft as well, and a lot of the other resources and posts we recommend. It’s a giant learning curve. And most leaders are not willing to do it.

      • Suzanne

        Shouldn’t believers be “unsettled” by abuse? And what is the opposite of that? Isn’t it to be blissfully blind to, and comfortable in, our ignorance of the pain of a sister or brother in Christ? How is that an acceptable part of the life of Spirit-filled believers? Aren’t we called to be different than the world, to be defenders of the weak and comforters of the suffering?

      • Renewed Spirit

        Yes – and I am hyper vigilant to it.

        I read somewhere others should never interfere…not sure how valuable that is.

        I’ve also read the one suffering has to come to her own conclusions of what is happening or she will end up in a similar ‘controlled’ situation.

        So tricky.

        But when I see these organizations that go in and rescue sex trade victims – I’m cheering! The more ‘interference’ the better – stop the damage!

      • joepote01

        Praying for you, Renewed Spirit! The not-so-subtle pressure of your church leadership must be very trying.

        They also said the unity in the congregation is disrupted because I do not sit with the man I married – that is unsettling to others.

        The reality is that the unity in the congregation is disrupted, because the man you married chose to disrupt your relationship…chose to violate the sacred covenant vows he swore on your wedding day, before God and witnesses.

        As I see it, the church elders have three choices.

        The first option is to do nothing…leave things alone and hope issues and perceived disunities resolve themselves. This is a legitimate option, though certainly not pro-active. The biggest issue with this approach is that they seem to have already begun applying not-so-subtle pressure on you to reconcile with your abuser. Which indicates that anything close to ‘do nothing’ means actually siding with the abuser…for the APPEARANCE of unity at all costs…even the cost of aiding and abetting an abuser in enslaving his target.

        The second option is to pressure you into leaving…or to dismiss you outright. This option goes directly against justice and mercy to stand with an abuser against an innocent abuse target. I suppose it brings some semblance of unity…unity with evil…at the cost of forsaking God’s wisdom expressed in Micah 6:8: “He hath shewed thee, oh man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?”

        The third and best option is to take a clear stand with you, against your abuser, making it very clear that you are under their protection and your abuser is not welcome. This option takes a very clear stand that abuse will not be tolerated and that the church leadership are walking in justice, mercy, humility, and wisdom.

        May God richly bless you as you continue to follow and trust Him!

      • Lea

        >They also said the unity in the congregation is disrupted because I do not sit with the man I married – that is unsettling to others. I say let it.

        Good for you. I would say if the congregation is ‘disrupted’ then maybe they should be reaching out to you and seeing what they can do. Offering support. If they aren’t doing that, their opinions aren’t worth anything imo.

      • Renewed Spirit

        That’s right – and I do not value their opinion if they don’t come and talk to me.

        Thankfully and strangely, it’s through my treatment for injuries that I am making headway in getting proper support.

        Mysterious ways of the Lord.

      • Renewed Spirit

        I want to say thanks to the person who provided the three options (but there was no reply button) – options were well thought out.

        They did suggest me leaving – and so has my medical team although more for my own well-being.

        To the elders my response is, ya so another congregation can deal with it. Silence.

        To my medical team my response is, if God is on our side against us shall be none.

        My situation is about as complex as you can get – that I know of. And right now I have to mainly focus on optimum recovery. It’s like my brain was wiped out literally in my accident – so that I can retrain it.
        But practically that meant dealing with vestibular, visual, memory and other issues first.
        The Lord has been so faithful – gives me confidence He will see this through.

        Look out world here I come :). Hobbling along like an old lady…

      • Anonymous

        They also said the unity in the congregation is disrupted because I do not sit with the man I married – that is unsettling to others.

        Wow Renewed Spirit, apparently you are so powerful that EVERYONE was affected by your refusal to sit by an anti-Christ. (I’m being sarcastic here and I totally agree with what you did and I’m proud that you were so brave!) This type of blanket statement is typical of abusers. (That EVERYONE was affected by what YOU did.) My husband used to use this garbage on me (still tries to) but I’m wise to it and refuse to accept it.

        An example of this happened recently when we had workers in the yard doing some maintenance. My husband said to me, “All the guys in the yard said that it was weird that you didn’t come out there.” I looked at him and said, “They didn’t say that and besides, who cares anyway? It’s not “weird” that a wife doesn’t go running out to see the men working in the yard and in this day and age we know that it’s not a good idea to allow everyone access to you and we should be cautious about who we let in.” He then went on to say that the men DIDN’T say that it was weird, but that they MIGHT think that. Nice try Mr. Abuser, but I think I’ll just NOT take responsibility for what others “think” I should be or if I’m wearing the mask they want me to wear, and that includes you, Mr. Abuser!

  2. sara

    “Gossip” by Pastor Marc J. Grimaldi has two dark sides. The one Pastor Crippen pointed out: the silencing of the victim and then the other side, which is the danger of breaking confidentially.

    The abuser isolates their victim and thus her resources are very limited. For the “religious family,” her only contact with outsiders is the church. If the woman has never been hit, she may not even realize she is in an abusive relationship. Many times the woman will seek “counsel” for her marriage because her abuser has convinced her that she has a spiritual problem. When a woman seeks help, she is the most vulnerable, because her abuser will not tolerate outside intervention.

    The issue I have with the majority of pastors or lay counselors is their blatant disregard for confidentiality. I sought help from a pastor and he immediately went to my abusive husband and extended his help with our “issues.” Once we got home, my husband flew into a rage because I had brought the church into our marriage—“which was private.” He kept me silenced for years, because he reiterated over and over that everything was private. I agree with Pastor Crippen that an abuser loves the church that will help silence their victims.

    The practice of many mega-churches is to train lay counselors, because the staff cannot handle the volume of people seeking help. The problem is that many professional counselors are not trained to handle abuse, let alone lay-counselors. The risk to a victimized woman is great when she seeks counsel from these lay people.

    I am now happily divorced and I work with a police department as a victim advocate. The majority of calls we receive are domestic violence and I am grieved at what women have been subjugated to by their churches. I always encourage women to seek counseling from professionals who are trained to deal with trauma AND I encourage them to not to seek counsel from the church. The risk of re-abuse is too great.

    • Jeff Crippen

      Sara- excellent observations. Thank you. And thank you for helping victims. Pathetic, isnt it, that we have to tell people not to seek help from their church. But it is true advice and it is what I tell victims too.

    • Renewed Spirit

      Good to hear you made progress!

    • Lea

      Sara, one of the disturbing things I have learned reading this blog (and others) is that counselors in church do not apparently adhere to the confidentiality rules standards practiced by professionals! If for no other reason, I would probably advise someone to seek counseling elsewhere at this point.

      • sara

        You are right, most “counselors” at churches do not adhere to the same standards as licensed professionals. This puts abuse victims in great danger. We all know and understand how the abuser creates allies and if they know their wife is counseling with someone from the church — abuser’s first inclination is to create an ally of the counselor. I discovered that most are very successful of this. Now the abuser has a team to gang up on his victim.

        Here is an example: I met a woman who’s ex-husband demanded oral sex when he came to the house to give her the child support check. If she refused — he refused to give her the money. She brought this up to the counselor that she was seeing at the church. The counselor responded by telling her that she was “still married in the eyes of God;” therefore, she must give her ex-husband whatever sexual favors he wanted. The counselor had advised against the divorce and was still trying to reconcile the couple. I asked her why she was still seeing this counselor and she said that he was from the church and he made her feel guilty when she tried to end it. Subsequently, the counselor told her that her husband was very sorry and she should forgive him, and it hurt the counselor to see such a good Christian man suffering and that was why the counselor decided to counsel them both separately. The woman had no idea how her ex-husband figured out who she was being counseled by at the church. Her ex-husband was extremely controlling and abusive, so she called the police department to figure out her options. The judge didn’t view them as being still married and ordered his payments of child support to be mailed her and re-instated a restraining order. She left the church and the counselor and is now seeing a licensed therapist.

        I don’t believe anyone should seek counseling from a church. Go somewhere independent of the church building and the people you know. A counselor is supposed to be neutral; otherwise, it won’t help.

  3. Avid Reader

    Thank you, Pastor Jeff!!!

    This is SO IMPORTANT!!

    In fact, part of our maturity in Christ is NOT accepting every new doctrine we hear—NOT being tossed around by “every changing wind of doctrine according to men’s cleverness and unscrupulous cunning, (by them that are) making use of every shifting device to mislead.” Eph 4:14 (Weymouth)

  4. Stronger Now

    This is horrible. When I went to a pastor, with a witness, to tell him about the ways my husband was abusing me and my children, he listened, but then dismissed us, calling it gossip. He insisted on couples counseling, and was completely duped by my husband.

    This is so evil, I just have no words.

    • Renewed Spirit

      Informing should be the term – the Church needs to get familiar with the concept and dynamics of abuse and then the procedure for informing.

  5. NutMeg

    Sadly the professors at my bible college took this position. One professor in our Church Ministry class told us that he didn’t tell his wife anything about the church. Because it would only hurt her and make it hard for her to respect the elders of the church. He wanted us to realize that aspiring pastors won’t be able to talk to their wives about work like other people can because of how sensitive it is. His advice bothered me.

    I met his wife and she always seemed so tired and downtrodden. She once came to our class and gave a lesson. It was directed at women who wanted to marry a pastor and it was all about good housekeeping and keeping up appearances. It made me so sad. He wouldn’t even talk to her like she was an intelligent person who deserved to know about how his day at work went! She was a maid. I hated that class. 😦

  6. letsgetreal

    I think your advice is spot on. Unfortunately the most churches that I’ve attended (about 9 or 10) in the USA never expose evil people like this, they just tolerate them. They just want to do the expedient thing, not the right thing.

    • Suzanne

      It takes courage to face evil head on in a church; the wicked don’t just go away quietly. But by refusing to engage them, warn them, and expose their evil words and deeds abusers are given free reign in direct contradiction to the instructions God gave us in His Word. Eventually the church will splinter, but not before great harm is done. The true followers of Jesus are not weak or cowardly and I think that this is one way to distinguish between the wheat and the tares. A church that chooses to cover over and remain silent about abuse is a place where the Word of God has been given second place to the teachings of men. And that never works out well for victims.

  7. StandsWithAFist

    My abuser is my MIL, who slandered, gossiped, maligned, denigrated, demeaned, devalued & demoralized me & my children for decades.
    As I began to “grow a steel spine” I also began to oppose her & exposed her lies & falsehood.
    I quickly learned who were her allies & who would betray me in a nano-second.

    My own husband (her son) often took sides with her and would chide me for “gossiping about her” the same way she gossipped about me, which of course was sin-levelling & scripture twisting, while admitting the wrong. No matter what I said he would respond that I needed to “take the high road” and be the “better Christian”.

    Finally one day I’d had enough. ENOUGH. I said I no longer believer her to be a Christian.
    And then he accused me of being “no different than her.”
    I looked at him and said “there is a HUGE difference between telling lies and telling the truth. She has told lies about me for years. Years! Now it’s time to tell the truth about HER”.
    He was stunned. For the first time, he got it. He understood that I was a “truth teller” (most scapegoats are) and that I would be silenced no longer.

    I told the truth & I walked away, and went NC. [no contact]
    Period.

    That was almost 5 years ago. She continues to lie, steal, cheat, slander, slither & protest.
    And I sit back & watch the show.
    She has no power over me, or my kids. I expose her evil to them & no longer protect poor, pitiful old Gramma as a saint.
    She is not a saint.
    She is an abuser.
    And I will not be silenced about abuse.
    She is an abuser and that is not gossip.
    It is truth & I will do whatever it takes to tell the truth & expose her abuse.
    How can that possibly be viewed as gossip??

  8. cindy burrell

    Remaining silent when evil speaks only condones it. In fact, if anything, while Pastor Grimaldi covers for Mr. Evans, Mr. Evans will probably be telling those who will listen how he put the pastor in his place. Surely, Mr. Evans will continue to divide and conquer, because that gives him power. It’s hard to imagine that the pastor is so wholly ignorant of this dynamic seen in Scripture.

    Thanks for bringing this disastrous book to light.

  9. MarkQ

    Eph 5:11 – “Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them”

    I think it’s important to understand gossip. The purpose of gossip is to talk about someone else for the purpose of tearing them down. It isn’t talking about someone else for the purpose of building up support to confront them, or even to ask for advice in how to deal with them.

    As has been said here often, silencing victims of abuse is a participation in the deeds of darkness and not exposing them. Instead, we should be encouraging those around us to fight the darkness. But, too often, churches are afraid to shine the light on darkness because they think that the world will think less of that church. Instead, they preserve the darkness and fight those who would expose it.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: