CBMW’s new Statement on Abuse still falls short. #ChurchDV
CBMW have published two Statements on Abuse. How do their 1994 to 2018 statements differ? How much have they learned in 24 years?
CBWW is the Council for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. It is an interdenominational organisation which champions “complementarian” doctrine — the belief that the Bible says that men are to lead in the church and the home and women are to submit.
I will show their 1994 Statement in blue and their 2018 Statement in pink. (No gender inference intended with those colours!) My comments are in black.
CBMW did not number the points in either of their statements. But I have numbered the points to enable me to share my further thoughts at the end of this post.
- We understand abuse to mean the cruel use of power or authority to harm another person emotionally, physically, or sexually.
- We believe abuse can be defined as any act or failure to act resulting in imminent risk, serious injury, death, physical or emotional or sexual harm, or exploitation of another person.
There is some change there. But their new definition of abuse is still inadequate.
- We are against all forms of physical, sexual and/or verbal abuse.
- We condemn all forms of physical, sexual and/or verbal abuse.
Insignificant change there.
- We believe that the biblical teaching on relationships between men and women does not support, but condemns abuse (Prov. 12:18; Eph. 5:25-29; Col. 3:18; 1 Tim. 3:3; Titus 1:7-8; 1 Pet. 3:7; 5:3).
- We believe that the biblical teaching on relationships between men and women does not support, but condemns abuse (Prov. 12:18; Eph. 5:25-29; Col. 3:18; 1 Tim. 3:3; Titus 1:7-8; 1 Pet. 3:7; 5:3).
No change there. That is significant and I will say more about it below.
- We believe that abuse is sin. It is destructive and evil. Abuse is the hallmark of the devil and is in direct opposition to the purpose of God. Abuse ought not to be tolerated in the Christian community.
- We believe that abuse is not only a sin but is also a crime. It is destructive and evil. Abuse is a hallmark of the devil and is in direct opposition to the purposes of God. Abuse must not to be tolerated in the Christian community.
They’ve added “it is also a crime’ – but that just shows how little they still understand about domestic abuse. I’ll say more about that below.
They’ve made a minor change from “it ought not be tolerated” to “it must not be tolerated”. However, their word “must” rings hollow unless they call their own big-shot leaders and founders to account and call for them to be stripped of all their leadership positions and perks.
Paige Patterson, John Piper. Wayne Grudem and Bruce Ware have all given advice that put victims of abuse in harm’s way and enabled abusive men to continue their mindset of male entitlement. (Click on each man’s name to see the evidence. And click here and here to see futher evidence about Paige Patterson.)
If CBMW wants to stand by its rhetoric, it must do all it can to get these men exposed as men who have condoned, tolerated and taught things which coerce women to “tolerate” abuse.
John Piper and Wayne Grudem were founders of CBMW. When the founders of an organization have enabled men to abuse women, what hope does the organization have to turn the ship?
- We believe that the Christian community is responsible for the well-being of its members. It has a responsibility to lovingly confront abusers and to protect the abused.
- We believe that the local church and Christian ministries have a responsibility to establish safe environments; to execute policies and practices that protect against any form of abuse; to confront abusers and to protect the abused, which includes the responsibility to report abuse to civil authorities.
- We believe that church and ministry leaders have a special obligation to report abuse to civil authorities. Moreover, these leaders are responsible for knowing the laws of their state about reporting the suspicion or accusation of child and spousal abuse, and for following those laws in good faith.
That’s a significant improvement. But who at CBMW will lean on Paige Patterson to report himself to the police for advising an abused woman to do things that put her at increased risk of danger from her abusive husband? Patterson instructed her to pray at her husband’s bedside and the husband retaliated by giving her two black eyes. And if it turns out that Paige Patterson was fabricating that story, who at CBMW will denounce him for lying?
- We believe that both abusers and the abused are in need of emotional and spiritual healing.
- We believe that God extends healing to those who earnestly seek him.
- We are confident of the power of God’s healing love to restore relationships fractured by abuse, but we realize that repentance, forgiveness, wholeness, and reconciliation is a process. Both abusers and abused are in need of on-going counseling, support and accountability.
- In instances where abusers are unrepentant and/or unwilling to make significant steps toward change, we believe that the Christian community must respond with firm discipline of the abuser and advocacy, support and protection of the abused.
- We believe that the church must offer tender concern and care for the abused and must help the abused to find hope and healing through the gospel. The church should do all it can to provide ongoing counseling and support for the abused. The wounds of abuse run deep and so patience and mercy are needed over the long-haul as the church cares for the abused.
- We believe abusers need to confess their crimes both to civil and church authorities, to repent of their sin, and to trust in Jesus Christ alone for salvation and forgiveness from their sin.
This is an improvement. I’m glad they removed the bit about the victim needing ongoing accountability. That was one of the most awful things in the first statement.
But I’m uncomfortable when they talk about the abused finding healing “through the gospel”. That can offend the abused who already believe the gospel and are therefore genuine Christians.
I’m very glad they have removed the bit about the abuser needing ongoing counseling and support.
“We believe abusers need to…repent of their sin, and to trust in Jesus Christ alone for salvation.”
Question: Do they really believe that abusers cannot be Christians? I hope so. But I very much doubt it.
- We believe that by the power of God’s Spirit, the Christian community can be an instrument of God’s love and healing for those involved in abusive relationships and an example of wholeness in a fractured, broken world.
- We believe that by the power of God’s Spirit, the Christian church can be an instrument of God’s love and healing for those involved in abusive relationships and an example of wholeness in a fractured, broken world.
They changed “Christian community” to “Christian church”. That may be insignificant. But it might be a covert upholding of the notorious Church Covenant documents which 9Marks churches get their members to sign to try to prevent disaffected members suing the church for redress of spiritual abuse.
*Adopted by the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood at its meeting in Lisle, Illinois in November, 1994.
*Adopted by the CBMW Board of Directors March 12, 2018
This new statement is only adopted by the Board of Directors, not the whole Council. I’m not sure how significant that is.
The male-privileged leaders of CBMW are dragging their feet in facing facts.
Here are my further thoughts on some of the numbered points.
1. Their new definition of abuse
They left out coercive control by means of emotional, financial and spiritual abuse, gaslighting, isolation, micro-management of the victims’ daily lives. And they didn’t mention legal/systemic abuse which abusers can also employ in their arsenal of tactics (especially when the abused woman is getting divorced from her abusive husband).
3. The way they cited scripture implies that if a women doesn’t submit she is being abusive
They did not change the scriptures they cited here: “We believe that the biblical teaching on relationships between men and women does not support, but condemns abuse (Prov. 12:18; Eph. 5:25-29; Col. 3:18; 1 Tim. 3:3; Titus 1:7-8; 1 Pet. 3:7; 5:3).”
So I will more or less repeat what I said in my Critique of the 1994 Statement, with a few added links.
Ephesians 5:25-29 tells husbands to love their wives, a command which clearly implies that it’s wrong to abuse their wives. Abuse and love are polar opposites; no-one would argue with that. But citing Colossians 3:18 (wives submit to your husbands as is fitting in the Lord) is below the belt. It implies that in the case of wives, being abusive and being submissive are polar opposites. Only CBMW, with their distorted understanding of the woman’s desire in Genesis 3:16, think that way. They claim that the woman’s desire for her husband is a desire to usurp authority over him, and they base this claim solely on one author, ironically a female author, Susan Foh, who in 1975 advanced a totally novel interpretation of Genesis 3:16.
Foh noted syntactic and semantic parallels between Gen. 4:7 and Gen. 3:16 and concluded that the meaning of the two passages must be the same. Just as sin crouched on the threshold, desiring to destroy Cain, and Cain was told he must overrule this temptation, so the wife desires to control her husband (by usurping his divinely appointed authority) and the husband must master her if he can. This interpretation dovetails perfectly into the lying claim of the abusive husband (and his pastor ally) that the husband was harsh towards his wife because the wife wasn’t submissive. The perfect theological excuse for abuse!
Only if you accept Foh’s aberrant interpretation, one that no commentator had conceived of for the first 1900 years of the Christian era, do you swallow the notion that wifely in-submission is, by definition, abusive to husbands. There has been surprisingly little debate about Foh’s interpretation within complementarian circles; they have gladly accepted and promoted it, and I count this as reprehensible on their part.
A more plausible interpretation of Genesis 3:16 is that as a consequence of the Fall, woman would desire to be cherished by her husband (Eve would want Adam’s forgiveness and abiding love, despite her mistake with the forbidden fruit), but that man would be inclined to rule harshly over woman. (I am not the first to propose such a view; some others who have preceded are Les Galicinski and Henri Blocher, In The Beginning: The Opening Chapters of Genesis, Leicester and Downers Grove: Inter-Varsity Press, 1984, p 181-2.) That is that what we see all around the world: male abuse and violence against women—the elephant in the room that we have only recently begun to acknowledge.
When abuse is being perpetrated, it is perfectly acceptable and right for the victim (whatever their gender) to say to the abuser: “Stop abusing me!” Any right thinking spouse ought to submit to this imperative. There is nothing abusive in a victim telling her abuser that he is mistreating her and she wants him to stop! There is nothing abusive in a victim failing to submit to an abuser.
If a wife fails to submit to a reasonable request from a non-abusive husband, she may be being unwise, slightly foolish, lacking in consideration for family harmony, etc. But it’s wrong to claim she is “being abusive”. Yet this is exactly what CBMW do when they cite Colossians 3:18 as as condemnation of abuse. They’re implying that when a wife don’t submit, she’s being abusive. This is a gross slander of women that CBMW needs to repent of.
4. CBMW now say “abuse is a crime,” which suggests they think that only physical or sexual assault count as “real” abuse.
Fact: A great deal of what domestic abusers do to their victims is not defined as criminal in many nations/states.
I know they mentioned “verbal abuse” in point 1. But abuse victims who have ever tried to get protection from abusers quickly find out that verbal abuse is seldom defined as a crime.
CBMW still have their heads in the sand. They still need to humble themselves and be educated by those who understand domestic abuse best: the survivors who have well and truly come out of the fog, and the secular professionals who work in domestic/family violence.
And the leaders at CBMW need to stop thinking that biblical counseling organizations can teach them about domestic abuse. Going by what I observe and hear from Christian victims, the majority of biblical counselors need to humble themselves and learn more before they will be competent to teach others about domestic abuse.
Numerous Christian women who have been abused by their husbands have told us that the teaching disseminated by these ‘highly respected’ CBMW leaders and Christian counselors has enabled their husbands to get away with abuse.
Some women have testified that emphatic teaching on biblical gender roles incited a not-too-bad husband to become a definitely abusive husband.
Many abused women – more than we can count – have told us that when they reported their husband’s abuse to church leaders, the leaders futher abused them by siding with their abusive husbands. Often they promoted the husband to a higher leadership position.
Excommunication of the female victim is not uncommon in churches (particularly American churches that profess to have confessional Reformed theology). And when church leaders don’t actually excommunicate the abused woman, they often make it so uncomfortable for her to stay in the congregation that she leaves anyway.
Shaming and blaming of victims. Unjust slander. Failure to recognize and resist the manipulative tactic of the abusive man. These things are rife in the visible church.
6. Abusers do not need support or ongoing counseling.
Abusers need to be firmly held accountable and experience tough consequences for their bad conduct. The only thing which might work with some abusers is psycho-education, which is very different from counseling. “Might” is a key word there. And research on the longterm effectiveness of psycho-educational programs for abusers has not yet been done.
The Biblical principal is that God gave Cain one stern piece of advice, not ongoing counseling. And when Cain killed his brother, God gave him a lifelong punishment which included virtual banishment from human society.
6. They suggest that all victims of abuse are unregenerate
I’m uncomfortable when they talk about the abused finding healing “through the gospel”. The gospel, in its narrow sense, is given to bring the unregenerate to faith in Christ. “Repent, and believe the gospel!” (Mark 1:15)
If we take CBMW’s words in this narrow sense, they are implying that abuse victims are not regenerate, not born again, so they need to repent and come to saving faith in Christ. That is offensive to all the abused who are already true Christians.
If CBMW meant the gospel in the broader sense in which it is often used today, it would have been better if they’d said: “We believe that the church must offer tender concern and care for the abused and must help the abused to find hope and healing through Christ, the Word and the Spirit (Luke 4:18).”
I’ve offered help to CBMW for years
In 2010 I published my Critique of their 1994 Statement on Abuse (at notunderbondage.blogspot which is no longer online). I emailed key leaders of CBMW to tell them about my critique. Randy Stinson (who was their Executive Officer or some such title) responded to my email. He told me that CBMW would be reviewing their Statement on Abuse. …Crickets.
The next thing that I noticed was around the time Owen Strachan took over the executive officer role. CBMW revamped their website and their 1994 Statement vanished. But Mary Kassian quoted it in full in her 2012 Statement on abuse on the day for the elimination of violence against women. (I’ve save that link to the web archive in case it gets scrubbed from Mary Kassian’s site.)
Soon after Mary Kassian published that post, I republished my Critique of CBWM’s 1994 Statement on Abuse here on A Cry For Justice:
It is now 2018. I am so angry they have taken this long to review their Statement on Abuse!
The evidence is indisputable: CBMW ignored the plight of victims for MANY MANY YEARS.
And now that #MeToo, #ChurchToo and #ChurchDV have gained traction, they are trying to play catch up.
All along, I had offered to help them. I reassured them that I’m not an egalitarian. I politely gave them suggestions. I encouraged and urged them to address domestic abuse better. And they impolitely ignored me. Ligon Duncan I’m looking at you. I gave you by hand a copy of my book and a few days later you told me you had liked the first three chapters and would be reading it all and would email me. Then silence. John Piper I’m looking at you. I emailed and snail mailed you a copy of this post. You and your staff ignored me. I sent review copies of my book to several men who were in leadership at CBMW. They ignored it. Or they sent the book on to CCEF…. as if my book is about counseling! My book is about the doctrine of divorce. But I’m a woman and in CBMW’s world any woman who writes a book about doctrine is likely to be shunned…unless she writes about ‘biblical womanhood’.
Further reading on Genesis 3:16
Dr Janson Condren talks about Bible translations and the original meaning of Genesis 3:16b – HIGHLY RECOMMENDED — this is very easy to read.
How Should We Understand “Her Desire” in Genesis 3:16b? – Hank Miller
Complementarity Without Subordination: What Does it Look Like? – Barbara Roberts
Further reading on Paige Patterson and the SBC
Paige Patterson and Doing the Right Thing for the SBC, Again – Ed Stetzer, Christianity Today
Southern Baptist leader’s advice to abused women sends leaders scrambling to respond – Sarah Pulliam Bayley, Washington Post
The Scandal Tearing Apart America’s Largest Protestant Denomination – Jonathan Merritt, The Atlantic
The Contaminated Pulpit and Other Weird Things – by Wade Burleson, 2008. A quote from this article:
The pulpit from behind which Dr. Bullock spoke was eventually removed from Southwestern’s chapel under orders of the new President of SWBTS, Dr. Paige Patterson. Dr. Patterson explained to those he had to remove it because “it had been contaminated by a woman preaching behind it.”
The Southern Baptist Convention’s Resolution on Domestic Violence (1979) They have not made any resolutions on it since then!
Southern Baptist leader who advised abused women not to divorce doubles down, says he has nothing to apologize for – Sarah Pulliam Bayley, Washington Post
Letter from Southern Baptist women, PLEASE SIGN if you are from the SBC! Letter to SWBTS Board of Trustees
We are shocked’: Thousands of Southern Baptist women denounce leader’s ‘objectifying’ comments, advice to abused women – Sarah Pulliam Bayley, Washington Post
“Deep Down I Was Scared.” Dr. Sheri Klouda about Her Time at SWBTS under Dr. Paige Patterson – guest post on Wade Burleson’s blog
So You Believe in the Inerrancy of God’s Word, Bully for You – by Paige Patterson
Paige Patterson on Domestic Violence: Audiofile Transcript and Resource Links – Spiritual Sounding Board.
Recent items from Comp leaders on divorce, and how some men treat women
Russell Moore says Yes, Abuse Warrants Divorce – this post shows several tweets by Russell Moore in which he states that abuse is grounds for divorce but he also tells victims what to do (which is a no-no). Please note that Russell Moore has a track record of supporting C J Manahey so we do not endorse Russell Moore. But it’s interesting that he does believe abuse is grounds for divorce.
What about divorce and abuse? – Denny Burk
Loving Our Sisters in All Purity – Denny Burk. He says: “Paul doesn’t say that Timothy should treat women as ‘temptresses in all purity’ nor as ‘inferiors in all purity.’ Timothy must treat them as sisters in all purity. A leader has an obligation to get this balance correct.”