A sure sign of an unsafe church is when it says abuse victims may not separate or divorce without permission from the church leaders
A Sure Sign a Church’s Claim to be a Friend of Abuse Victims is False – a reblog from Jeff Crippen’s site Light for Dark Times. [ACFJ have given it a slightly different title; we trust Jeff doesn’t mind.]
Currently, we are seeing churches and organizations jumping on the band wagon of supposedly exposing domestic and sexual abusers in the church and coming to the aid of their victims. Occasionally these claims are genuine, but most frequently they are false efforts to “cover the bases” and preserve the institution. After all, there is an increasing outcry against evildoers hiding in and even leading churches and supposedly Christian organizations. The Southern Baptists, for example, are under the gun and rightly so.
So in such a climate you can expect that the guilty will start trembling a bit. They have plenty of skeletons in the closet in which they have enabled abusers and disregarded the pleas of abuse victims, so they do what I call a “pre-emptive strike.” They hold conferences on abuse. They make announcements about how they are the defenders of the abused. And they do so without repentance. By that, I mean they do not come humbly broken, confessing their many sins and wrongs they have dealt to the innocent, confessing that they are ignorant of these evils and have been duped by the wicked. Oh no. Suddenly THEY are experts to whom we are all to go now for help and aid.
Recently I received just such a claim. It comes from Faith Bible Church in Spokane, Washington. This is a John MacArthur church in that the pastor was trained at The Master’s Seminary and teaches at a TMS satellite. If you have followed A Cry for Justice (blog) or read my books, you know that John MacArthur has consistently taught that divorce for abuse is forbidden by God. [click here, here and here for evidence]
Below are the outline points of two messages given by the lead pastor of Faith Bible Church, Dan Jarms, and his associate, Brian Sayers. Following these two outlines I have included the Faith Bible Church Doctrinal Elder Paper on marriage, divorce, and remarriage. I could go on and on pointing out to you how these two sermon outlines and doctrinal paper evidence clearly that Faith Bible Church’s claim to be a friend to abuse victims is false and that in fact, this church has not truly changed its positions at all. Don’t be naive. The claims here that divorce is permitted for abuse are going to be practically (in practice) denied when it comes right down to a victim divorcing her abuser.
Rather than, as I said, going on at length regarding my criticisms of these things, I have simply bold-faced one major, plain evidence of falsehood that is repeated throughout the outlines and paper. This one persistent demand made by this church is all we need to know to be able to conclude that the church is in no way truly repentant of past wrongs to victims and that in fact its supposed “change” is feigned and false.
As you will see, this single demand is that abuse victims are required to place themselves under the authority of the pastor and elders and are not to proceed with divorce, separation, or any other action without the church’s authorization. I can tell you that anyone who does this is going to find themselves further oppressed and wrongly controlled by church leaders who arrogantly claim this privilege for themselves but who are ignorant of the evils which oppress the victim.
THIS is the most certain proof that a church like this and pastors and elders like these men have not fundamentally changed at all. That is to say, they are continuing to demand that abuse victims place themselves under their authority, never acknowledging the history (as is easily found in MacArthur’s teaching and practice) of dealing out injustice to victims and enabling the wicked. They are not humbled in other words. They remain arrogant. This is plain Pharisaism.
I will also underscore several other portions of these documents that I am convinced demonstrate that these men in this church do something else absolutely unbiblical and damaging. Namely, they treat the abuser as a Christian. Thus they proceed with the idea that they are going to rescue the marriage, fix the abuser, and all that this requires is their counseling and that the victim “gut it out” in the abuse “for the glory of God.” All Christians, you know, (say these pastors) can be abusers and an abuser can be a Christian who simply needs to “make war on entitlement mentality.” Absolutely false teaching.
Of course I know they will deny these charges and say I don’t know what I am talking about. Well, so be it. I do know what I am talking about. You are never going to instruct, teach, disciple an abuser who has been faking it as a Christian all along into a godly, loving spouse. Not gonna happen! And yet you will notice the total absence of any of that truth here in these documents, with no mention at all of God’s plain command that we put such counterfeits out of the church (see 1 Cor 5).
Dr. Dan Jarms is teaching pastor and team leader at Faith Bible Church in Spokane Washington, as well as associate dean at TMS Spokane…. He earned his B.A. in English at the Master’s College, B. Ed. at Eastern Washington University , MDiv and DMin in Expository Preaching at The Master’s Seminary.
Sermon Notes (Dan Jarms)
1. Cultivate Love
Colossians 3:19 Husbands, love your wives, and do not be harsh with them.
Titus 2:4 and so train the young women to love their husbands and children.
1 John 4:7-11
- Keep the love of Christ in constant view.
- Become a Romans 12 friend/spouse.
- Make war on an entitlement mentality.
- Put “cherish my friend/spouse” on your daily to do list.’
2. Cultivate Christlikeness
Ephesians 4:15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
Colossians 1:28 Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ. 29 For this I toil, struggling with all his energy that he powerfully works within me.
- Get the log out of your own eye first (Matthew 7:3-5)
- Pray for specific Christlike qualities
- Husbands convey warning and teaching with a servant’s heart
- Wives convey warning and teaching with a respectful heart
Sermon Notes (Brian Sayers)
Brian Sayers is the Pastor of Discipleship and Counseling at Faith Bible Church.
- How should we define abuse?
- Individuals should put themselves under the care and counsel of godly shepherds
- Church leadership must understand and respond properly to abuse
- Scripture requires God’s people to protect the innocent sufferer, and to seek justice toward the oppressor (Psa. 82:3-4; Psa. 10)
- God-given authorities exist to bring justice where it is needed (Rom. 13:1-4)
- Discernment must be used to measure and apply principles of repentance, confession, forgiveness, and accountability
- Victims must understand and respond properly to abuse
- To not “cry out” ignores God’s desire for justice, and neglects God’s provision and protection for you and others
- The abused must overcome fear, and entrust themselves to God and those called to protect and care for them
FAITH BIBLE CHURCH DOCTRINAL ELDER PAPER:
Marriage, Divorce & Remarriage
Prerequisites for Marriage
1. God’s design is for one man to be married to one woman, for life.
Gen. 1:27 …male and female He created them. Gen. 2:24 & Eph 5:31 Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.
2. The foundational requirement for Christian marriage is that a believer should not marry an unbeliever. 2 Cor. 6:14-18 Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness?
3. A couple must have a pure relationship if they desire to know God’s will about marriage.
1 Thess. 4:3 For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality.
4. Those preparing for marriage should also be mature and responsible so that they can meet the appropriate biblical expectations of the partners in marriage.
Eph. 5:22-33 wives, be subject… Husbands, love your wives…
1 Tim. 5:8 But if any one does not provide for his own, and especially for those of his household, he has denied the faith, and is worse that an unbeliever.
Foundational Principles of Marriage, Divorce & Remarriage
1. Marriage was established by God to be a life-long, intimate, covenantal relationship between one man and one woman (Genesis 2:18, 24; Malachi 2:14; Proverbs 2:17). Jesus issued a general guideline that what God joins together, man should not separate (Matthew 19:6; Mark 10:9).
2. Christians must exhaust all biblical means to preserve their marriage. Permanence in the marriage relationship has been, and always will be, God’s ideal and intention.
3. While every divorce involves sin, not every divorce is sinful (Jeremiah 3:6-10; cf. 1 Corinthians 7:15; Jeremiah 31:31-32; Deuteronomy 24:1-4).
4. This pursuit of permanence may involve enduring a marriage that is less than God’s ideal (1 Corinthians 7:12-14, 16; 1 Peter 3:1-2). The desire for God’s glory must supersede one’s desire for comfort or happiness. This principle would not require someone to indefinitely endure unrepentant acts that constitute biblical grounds for divorce (see biblical grounds below). Decisions must be made under the spiritual care, counsel, and authority of the elders.
5. Divorce may be permissible, but is never commanded. Two believers should always be willing to pursue repentance and reconciliation as part of a life seeking to honor God.
6. Biblically allowed divorce implies the right before God to pursue biblical remarriage. They must seek the counsel and care of church leadership in this process.
7. In cases where Christians come to Faith Bible Church having already participated in unbiblical divorce or remarriage situations, the church will strive to provide compassionate counsel that will lead to
personal understanding of these biblical principles, and a careful repentance for all involved.
Biblical Grounds for Divorce
Divorce is allowed for two reasons. Below are explanations of those two broad biblical categories.
1. Divorce is allowed in cases of unrepentant sexual immorality (Matthew 5:31-32; 19:8-9).
• The “sexual immorality” referenced (Greek, porneia), is broader than adultery, and would include the litany of sexual sins listed in the Old Testament (specifically Leviticus 20:10-21).
• This provision may also include other violations not specifically mentioned, but which are similar in nature. To constitute biblical grounds for divorce, the sexually deviant behavior of this kind must be continual and unrepentant.
• Evaluations and decisions must be made under the spiritual care, counsel, and authority of the local church elders.
2. Divorce is allowed when an unbelieving spouse abandons the marriage covenant (“unbelieving” may be determined by their profession, or through the application of church discipline).
• The unbeliever leaves. First Corinthians 7:12-15 clearly teaches that when an unbelieving spouse “consents to live with” the believer, then the believer should remain married to them. When the unbelieving spouse separates/leaves, however, the believer is not bound to the marriage covenant.
• The unbeliever says they want to, or are going to leave, but will not. An unbelieving spouse’s unwillingness to remain married (1 Corinthians 7:13-15) may be broader than physical separation or
leaving. Repeated expression of resolve and/or desire to divorce, while not pursuing the good will of a mutually beneficial and healthy marriage, may also be not “consenting to live with.”
• The unbeliever does not threaten leaving in any way, but live as though they have abandoned the
marriage. There may be other extreme cases where church leaders determine that the unbelieving
spouse has “effectively abandoned” the marriage covenant, although they do not pursue or express a
desire to separate or divorce.
• Evaluations and decisions must be made under the spiritual care, counsel, and authority of the local church elders.
Jeff Crippen is the pastor of Christ Reformation Church in Tillamook, Oregon, arriving there in 1993. He has been a pastor since 1983 and was a police officer for 12 years before that. He and his wife Verla have been married for 40 years. He co-led the A Cry For Justice blog with Barbara Roberts from 2012-2017.