An Open Letter from a Pastor to Pastors

To the Glory of the Lord Jesus Christ,
Pastor Jeff Crippen,
Tillamook, Oregon

Letter to Fellow Pastors

Dear Pastor:

The evil of domestic and sexual abuse is in our midst.  By “our,” I mean our conservative, Bible-believing churches.  Churches just like the one I have pastored for nearly 20 years now.  We are not doing well in confronting the perpetrators nor in effecting justice and kindness for their victims.

None of us learned about this evil in seminary.  As a result, we are largely blind to it.  Lest you think that you surely would see it if it were in your church, and that for the most part your church is free of it, let me assure you that those very thoughts reveal our blindness.  The evil of domestic and sexual abuse either was – is – or is going to be in your church.  And even more frightening is the confirmed fact that when it comes to your congregation, you (like me in the past) will not deal with it rightly, if you even see it at all.  None of us would like to think that we would ever be an ally of evil against an oppressed victim.  Yet this is what will indeed happen in your church and ministry unless you prepare yourself.

Permit me, if you will, to share my story with you in the hope that you can learn from it, and that we might all then bring the glory to Christ which we desire to.

How Our Church Did Things

First, let me share with you some of the lessons the Lord has had to teach me over the years, and which I am still learning.  It took some really hard “knocks” from Him to get my attention.  In seeking to reform this church, myself and our elders wrote a new book of church order (bylaws).  In what we believed to be faithfulness to Scripture, we instituted the following practices:

  1. Women could not vote.  The men, as the head of their families and wives, voted.
  2. Women could not pray aloud in prayer meetings.  Only the men.

Our church was, and still is, virtually entirely home school families.  Men were to be the head of their homes and women were to be in submission to their husbands.  Books such as “Me Obey Him?” and child-raising materials from ultra-conservative organizations circulated among us (the kind that basically say:  homeschooling is God’s will for every Christian family, etc).

We truly desired to do “better” in following Christ than all the other typical local churches around us that were, in our opinion, largely compromised with the world.  No one sat down and mapped this all out.  We embraced these things over time.

The Lord Arrested Our Attention

And then the Lord blew the lid off of our pride.  I won’t give the details, but a terrible incident of sexual abuse of a child occurred among us.  At the same time we found ourselves being recruited by an abusive man as allies against his wife. These are the things that divide churches!

These events propelled me into the study of abuse, domestic and sexual, in an effort to better understand how these things had crept up on us and what we needed to repent of.  I wanted to know if there were signs we could look for that would help us detect abusers and their victims much earlier.  And so I began to read.

Over time, and by no means at my own doing, we came to realize that we had created an environment in our church that was abuser-friendly.  Evil-friendly.  We, as leaders, had encouraged our men to lord it over their wives and families rather than loving them.  We had created an environment that was unbiblically oppressive to women.  Myself and our elders, over some period of time, began to realize this – by the Lord’s mercy in showing us – and we began to make some changes.

Implementing some Positive Changes

Women in the church can now vote.  Women can pray aloud in prayer meetings.  In the course of preaching my sermon series on abuse, I acknowledged to our church (and I have continued to do so) that we had not done enough when teaching and preaching on the subjects of marriage, headship, and submission.

We had failed to clearly describe what headship is not, and what submission is not.  We came to the realization that abuse – a pattern of coercive control employing any one or more of emotional, verbal, sexual, spiritual, physical, financial and social mistreatment of the other spouse – is indeed biblical grounds for divorce and that we would no longer insist that a husband or wife was required by the Lord to remain in a relationship in which the marriage vows had been habitually broken.

We rejected what we consider to be unbiblical and exaggerated patriarchy that is promoted so widely by books and organizations within our conservative Christian circles.  We still cling solidly to the position of the inerrancy and infallibility of God’s Word and thus are by no means getting on some liberal “band-wagon” to make everyone happy.

We are calling upon other conservative, Bible-believing churches and pastors to do the same things and to stop creating abuser-friendly cultures in our churches.  It is important to become educated and wise in regard to the mentality and tactics of abuse.

My first steps

My first step in this process in our own church, with the support of our elders, was to preach a 21 part sermon series titled “The Psychology of Evil”  Why that title?  Because you will not find any more fruitful field of study to help you understand evil in its bare, essential form than the study of the psychology and methods of the abuser.  Behind his deceptive facade, the abuser is a living, breathing textbook on evil.

I highly recommend to you the following books:
Why Does He DO That?
[Affiliate link] by Lundy Bancroft
A Cry for Justice: How the Evil of Domestic Abuse Hides in Your Church [Affiliate link] by myself
Unholy Charade: Unmasking the Domestic Abusers in the Church [Affiliate link] by myself
Not Under Bondage by Barbara Roberts
and the two fine books by Dr George Simon Jr., In Sheep’s Clothing [Affiliate link] and Character Disturbance [Affiliate link].

Getting a Grip

I would like to make a suggestion to you that may well be as hard for you to hear as it was for me, originally.  It is simply this – if you have been dealing with a marriage in your church in which one spouse has been claiming to have been abused, and if that situation (as it so often does)  has come to the point of threatening the unity of your church, or at least being something like a thorn to you that just won’t go away, then the source of the problem may very probably rest with you and your leadership rather than with the marriage partners themselves.  I have had to face up to this personally and as I said, it took the Lord giving me some pretty hard blows to get my attention.

What do I mean that the real problem very likely rests with you?  I mean that if your church is characterized by any or all of the following mentalities and philosophies, then evil, abusive individuals will find it a friendly place for them, and victims will suffer.  Injustices will be done to victims, all the while the leaders believing they are handling things scripturally.

Taking Stock

Therefore, if your church:

  1. embraces a theology  that presumes a church member/professing Christian really is a Christian, regardless of how they are living,
  2. emphasizes the headship of the husband and father and the submission of the wife and mother without getting right down to the “nitty-gritty” of what abuse of headship actually looks like, so that the men in the church even “squirm” in the pew if they are guilty,
  3. does not, like we used to, permit women to vote or to pray aloud,
  4. teaches that the marriage covenant is not to be broken, that divorce is wrong (that sounds biblical, but what it usually translates into is the clear implication that abuse is not grounds for divorce)
  5. teaches that abuse victims, normally women, are pleasing God and suffering for Christ by remaining in a marriage to an abuser,
  6. discourages (in some cases forbids) a wife from saying anything negative about her husband (this is often expressed as a discouraging ‘gossip’)

…then I suggest to you that it is not fundamentally the troubled marriage that is threatening the health of your church, but it is the climate that has been created which inevitably deals injustice to victims.

Injustice Destroys Unity

As more and more people in the congregation begin to realize this injustice, unity is destroyed.  As we, pastors and leaders, dig our heels in further, all the while telling ourselves that we are standing faithful for Christ in this, we only add fuel to the fire.

There was still another hard thing that I had to face:  just what do we think of women?  The fact is that most conservative, Bible-believing pastors like ourselves actually look down upon women.  We see them as inferior beings.  We object to this charge, but our actions betray our real attitudes.

I had to ask myself, “Jeff, just exactly what is it that is going on in your head when a woman walks into your office and asks for help?”  The answer I ultimately saw was “I see her as an inferior being and I talk down to her.”  Really, and with ruthless honesty – “What does Pastor _________ think about a woman who walks into his office?”  “What does he think about his wife?”  Don’t rush to answers.  The first responses we give are usually wrong.

Pastor, if you and your church are dedicated, Bible-believing Christians who have been working to do your best to serve Christ, the chances are quite high that you have made some of the very same errors we did.  From my study of the growing number of cases of abuse uncovered in our churches, from hearing case after case of victims who have been terribly treated at our hands, I venture to say that you are not immune to these errors.

Seeking a Remedy

This means that, as in our case, the remedy for the threatened division or injustices rendered in your church lies mostly with you and your leadership, not with any one situation you are dealing with.  That is to say, my prescription is that you and your leaders plead with the Lord to show you things that need to be repented of and changed.

What would happen in your church if you went before your people, after some genuine self-examination, and confessed to them that you have not done well in this matter.  If you stated that  you have created an oppressive environment for women.  State that by God’s grace you are resolved to set about making it right?  What if you went to any specific woman in a particular case you have handled, and confessed these things to her?  And then set out to re-tool the culture of your church?

Many times we tell ourselves that these abuse victims (sometimes men, but usually women) who come to us asking for help have a “log” in their own eye and are just looking for the speck in their spouse’s eye.  But, brother, I tell you that I had said the same thing about people in those kinds of situations many times.  I am afraid that now I see there was an even bigger log in my own eye.

Persecution for Christ or Oppression of the Weak?

In order to do that, I had to put aside my oft-repeated argument that I was “standing for Christ’s truth and was being persecuted by sinful people.”  Yes,  persecution is going to come if we stand for Christ.  But when we are doing wrong, when we are oppressing the oppressed and being duped by evil, the fallout is not persecution for Christ.  It is the bad fruit of our own crippled thinking and wrong-doing.

I trust you take these words in the spirit they are given.  They are meant to do good to Christ’s church, to your ministry, and to the souls of those you oversee.  I realize that in some cases these things are calling for radical change on your part.  All I can say is that we have made those radical changes here and are still working on them – and we aren’t looking back.

In the Name of our Lord Jesus Christ,

Jeff Crippen, Pastor
Tillamook, Oregon

Click here to find an online PDF version of this letter.

* * * * * * *

Readers are freely granted permission to reproduce this letter and use it to good ends. Please do not alter or change the wording.

If you are reluctant to distribute the letter yourself for safety reasons (stigma, etc.), we now have a volunteer who will distribute the letter anonymously to any pastor and Christian leader you may wish to nominate. Go to this link to find how to contact her.

We would be very interested in hearing from anyone who uses this as a tool to call the body of Christ to justice and wisdom in dealing with the oppressed.

Jeff’s desire is that this letter be sent to pastors to help open their eyes to the misuse of power and control in their churches, and to caution them regarding how very easily any of us can become guilty of lording it over our people. He wants to assist pastors and church leaders to understand that one extremely common scenario which is occurring in our conservative, Bible-believing churches with alarming regularity, concerns how we are mishandling cases of abuse (both domestic and sexual) that are brought to our attention and / or occurring right under our noses within our own congregations.


UPDATE Sept 2021: I have come to believe that Jeff Crippen does not practise what he preaches. He vilely persecuted an abuse victim and spiritually abused many other people in the Tillamook congregation. Go here to read the evidence. Jeff has not gone to the people that he spiritually and emotionally abused. He has not apologised to them, let alone asked for their forgiveness.

81 thoughts on “An Open Letter from a Pastor to Pastors”

  1. You’ve called us all to account for our actions and responses to other’s actions – well done! I will use this tool – Letter to Fellow Pastors [Internet Archive link] – and will send it out to church leaders over the next week. Thank you for your willingness to speak up, to cry out for justice. You’re making a big difference!

  2. Jeff – Thank you for addressing this issue. This is a personal one for me. I have cried many tears and I’m afraid there are many more. I posted it on my blog today. I hope many read it and pass it along.

    1. Julie Anne – thank you for posting the letter at your blog. Perhaps your recent trial will give us even more of a hearing.

  3. Amen. Thank you Jeff, for having the courage to confront and speak the truth boldly, in love. May God use your words to challenge, inspire change and accountability.

    In our Father’s name, let this be the beginning of powerful awareness and dramatic changes.


  4. Thanks, Pastor Jeff, for your immensely heart-felt, doctrinally-sound, Christ-honoring letter. As my sister served in ministry as an advocate for survivors of domestic violence, rape, and sexual abuse, I know through her experiences and those of survivor friends, the devastating impact these acts of violence inflict. Too often, our churches and their leaders have amplified the wounds. I pray your letter is received into Spirit-opened ears and softened hearts so that this wound in the Church can find healing and our churches can become safe houses for ministry.

  5. For those of us who are not in a place of safety yet and don’t want to be identified, would it be possible for you, Pastor Jeff, or an organisation on your behalf, to send/email the letter if you were given the email addresses of pastors? Otherwise, what is the best way of doing it without identifying the sender?

    1. Hmmmm, maybe Barbara or another reader could give us some suggestions here. Maybe we have a reader who would like to do that and doesn’t mind using their email address to do it?

    2. I would love to see it sent wide and far. But I don’t have the time to find or access the email addresses of multiple pastors. I have already sent it out to all on my Not Under Bondage email list.

      If anyone wants to take up the challenge that Anon has proposed, even if just for one regional area (one denomination, or one state, or one town, or whatever) then feel free.

      I would love an administrative assistant or three!

      If anyone wants to compile a list of email addresses of multiple pastors, and send it to me, maybe I can then send Jeff’s letter out to all the addresses we gather. I don’t normally agree with spamming people but I think a one-off scatter gun approach like this would not be inappropriate, given the importance of the topic and the high quality of Jeff’s letter above.

      But if any of one of our readers is happy to let their email address be the ‘sender’ address, and wants to pick up the ball here to save me the work, I would truly LOVE it. 🙂 🙂 🙂 Endless gratitude will flow your way, believe me!

      If you are that person, just email me and let me know. I can forward you the addresses as they come through to me from other readers, and you can then do BCC (blind carbon copy) mail-outs to multiple recipients. We would have to tell the recipients that we are not intending to send unsolicited emails on a regular basis; otherwise it could be seen as offensive because we were sending it unsolicited.

    3. has anyone responded to this? is Anon still looking for someone to send out the email? I would be willing to do so if no one has responded yet. I know this is kind of late, but I want to see this letter get out there.

      1. No Caleigh, I don’t believe anyone has responded, though some individuals have sent it to their own pastors. Thank you very much. It has been posted on The Wartburg Watch website and made some rounds there.

      2. Caleigh I have not had any volunteers except for you ( addit: and Rebecca below — Sorry Rebecca! I must have got so busy with other things I forgot about your offer.)

        I am even more busy than I was when this post was first published. Would you care to give your email address on this thread here, so that readers who want to can forward you addresses of those they would like to see the letter sent to?

    4. I just read this letter for the first time and would love to have a mini ministry to help facilitate pastors to give thought to this from the words of another pastor. After meeting with several pastors over the years (and being told that if my kitchen was cleaner things would be better), I would love to help other women by forwarding this letter to pastors by using my own e-mail address so that there is no fear of recrimination by church or spouse. I have created a new e-mail address tonight that will only be used for this purpose. I will create a short, stock introductory letter to send with Jeff’s letter.

      SO, if anyone wants me to send this letter to a pastor, please e-mail me at with the e -mail address (and maybe name) of the pastor and I will do it. God blessed me with organization and administration so this will be easy for me and an honor to do. Barbara and Jeff? A way to post this so more see it?

  6. I’m putting this comment here from a survivor who wrote it to me privately. Here’s what she wrote:

    The only part of Jeff’s letter that would cause the pastors in my previous church to wave it away is that they are egalitarian compared to many other places. Women preach, women pastor and women vote. They have never preached on submission or headship. They are supportive of women who are divorced although they would never want to advocate for divorce be seen supporting it. They just want to keep the divorced members of congregation in the church so they have a ministry for them.

    In spite of this, MANY women suffered. This is, of course, due to the dynamics of DV and the ability of the men to manipulate, and the inability of counselors to distinguish between marital issues and violence issues. Mostly it is due to their ignorance, which resulted in no church-wide policy on DV. THIS would be the message I hope they get most of all – that THERE NEEDS TO BE A UNIFORM POLICY because DV IS A PROBLEM.

    1. UPDATE Sept 2021: I have come to believe that Jeff Crippen does not practise what he preaches. He vilely persecuted an abuse victim and spiritually abused many other people in the Tillamook congregation. Go here to read the evidence. Jeff has not gone to the people that he spiritually and emotionally abused. He has not apologised to them, let alone asked for their forgiveness.


      Anon, would you be able to draft a variant of this Open Letter, one that would target the kind of church leadership you have described above, where women preach, teach and pray, but domestic abuse is STILL being dealt with badly? If you drafted it up and sent the draft to Ps Jeff and he was happy with the wording, he could publish it here on this blog, with the same invitation to pass it out to church leaders who might fit that profile.
      Then we would have one letter for the hard-patriarchalists, and one for the more egalitarian churches.
      I agree with you that DV can be a problem in all types of churches, often due to the ignorance of the leaders and the lack of a uniform policy. And I agree with Ps Jeff that the ignorance of leaders can be traced right back to seminary, where this stuff is rarely being taught.

  7. Jeff,

    It is an honor to post your letter to pastors on our website The Wartburg Watch.

    I am grateful for your transparency, and I pray that pastors will take your message to heart.

    1. Many thanks for posting it! Yes, pray that pastors will be affected and seriously re-consider the tradition we have all been taught.

  8. Jeff, I’d love to see this letter be distributed to the masses! May I offer that wide distribution of it may look differently than acceptance of it’s content? Please know that this is just my humble opinion, but I’d be a bit cautious of random, mass distribution at this point in time. I’ve found that spam email is still not widely liked, even it the content is good. It can also discredit the organization to some degree, unless the organization has already been established as credible.

    While I need no further convincing or conviction that A Cry for Justice, or this powerful letter, is indeed solid as a rock, I wonder if a more effective means of distribution would be ‘snail mail’ with personal contacts and first names, for now. I know many pastors, and pastors who know pastors, college professors, etc. A personal connection can be more effective and have a snowball effect. October is National Domestic Violence Awareness month. Please let me know how I can help.

    1. Thanks much Rebecca. Yes, very good points. We will see what plans for getting it circulated develop. Right now I am just leaving that to the Lord.

    2. Good point, Rebecca. I have had experience of sending an unsolicited email to complementarian leaders, and they cited that the fact that I’d done it unsolicited as a reason to not pay attention to my concerns. Maybe snail mailing is the better way to go. At least with unsolicited snail mail, people don’t take offense so much. And maybe a hard copy letter is more compelling than an email.

      Also, big plus, the person sending it does not need to be identified.

  9. Jeff, this is so refreshing. It smells, looks, and feels like Jesus…and I rarely experience that feeling anymore in Evangelicalism. I\’ve posted your article on my blog at Dealing with child abuse, spousal abuse, molestation in the church…and a proper Jesus Model of spiritual leadership: “Abuse and Pastors: An Open Letter from a Pastor to Pastors” [Internet Archive link]. I’ve often groaned for the Jesus Model instead of CC\’s Moses Model. You\’ve demonstrated what the Jesus Model looks like in action. Thank you for sharing your story and may God continue to use you to spread this message of loving and proper leadership far and wide.

  10. Thank you for writing this post. While I am glad you now have a different approach to these situations and have made changes in your church, I am also broken hearted. You see, I am one of those women who believed marriage was a life long commitment no matter how my husband treated me. Wondering what I could do better as a wife to be cherished and earn his kindness. At the same time, questioning God’s love for believing this “suffering is all part of what God has called me to.” And now that we are separated after 18 years of marriage and 5 children, still wondering, what went wrong.

    1. MyGossamerLife – it sounds to me like your husband was an abuser. The pain and confusion you’ve experienced has been made a lot worse by the failure of the church to understand domestic abuse. I hope you read more on this blog, as it may help you understand what went wrong. If you haven’t already, I suggest you read Lundy Bancroft’s book Why Does He DO That? [Affiliate link] as it will explain a lot to you. When there is domestic abuse, it is NEVER the victim’s fault; the victim is not to blame. Bless you, and I hope you continue to come to our blog.

  11. It is a breath of fresh air to read this from a pastor. I thought “all” pastors were going “south” and not truly being shepherds to their church- you have renewed some hope.
    One thing that I have found that might have contributed to this abuse is that pastors are placing “doctrines of men” over the Word of God; they are placing their own version of scripture above the simple message of Gods grace and His love.
    Thanks again…..

  12. I applaud you for opening up a subject to the church that must be addressed, but I encourage you to speak out to churches who absolutely need to find a ministry of compassion for those who are facing divorce due to not only abuse, but to infidelity and mental illness. Churches balk at the word “divorce” and some churches don’t even see that the “divorced” need to be embraced or cared for. These matters are serious implications that the church is not doing the ministry of Jesus Christ, but remaining a social organization, catering to the whims of church members, rather than the crushing needs of their church members.
    For the past two years, I have tried to begin a divorce ministry at our church, however, I found out from our pastor (who was not the pastor at the time) that our church went through a major split due to divorce issues – one stance that “this” divorce was biblical, and the other stance that no “divorce” was biblical. How sad! Now, two great congregations sit on opposite ends of town, who were once a single church. I know the Lord cries for this church, and so do I because of the stance the Minister of Education has taken with me starting a divorce recovery group…complete silence and non-action on his part. We have discussed it several times, but he yanked it from the bulletin because he thought it was going to cause legal problems – and he was one of the pastors who went through the split of our church.
    My heart and my seeded ministry is to equip churches to become caring agents toward those who are going through divorce, but I am finding that it is virtually impossible to change the stance of some of these churches who do not want to minister to those who have been severely abused and who want a divorce…and the church says, “NO!”, giving no support to them whatsoever.
    I have been through a divorce myself due to the “master of deception, and my x was a pastor…no one really wanted to believe the things that he did, especially family and the church – the the antics he pulled off in order to counter his sin was obnoxious – to say the least. Connect with me on twitter…I would like to follow you!

    1. Thank you Lilly. Very good words. It seems that this whole issue of divorce, remarriage, abuse and so on has been elevated to the level of the doctrine of the Trinity and the deity of Christ. I don’t know why. But I do know that the enemy must be grinning as he watches churches split over this and victims unnecessarily tormented.

    2. Thanks Lilly. May you feel encouraged by our blog, just as we feel encouraged by your passion and your attempts to bring this stuff out in the open and be the hands and feet for Christians who have legitimately divorced their spouses, whether it be for abuse, adultery or desertion. I believe that some kinds of mental illness in a spouse, especially if the spouse refuses to comply with psychiatric treatment, are grounds for divorce if the mentally ill spouse is so mistreating the other spouse that it amounts to abuse and/or abandonment.

      You may like to read my book Not Under Bondage: Biblical Divorce for Abuse, Adultery and Desertion [Affiliate link]. If Christians were more willing to consider the careful argumentation I present, it might prevent some churches splitting over the topic of divorce.

      But I think that most of the resistance against re-examining divorce doctrine is coming from people’s skeletons in the closet and the emotions buried there-with, rather than their purely intellectual differences over the way the divorce texts should be interpreted. And when it comes to things ‘below the neck’ – things to do with people’s emotions and personal history – it’s much harder to effect change.

      Neither Jeff nor I use Twitter. We are already too busy doing what we do, without adding another level of complexity. We only recently started a FB page for this blog! Call us old fashioned, if you like…

  13. Thank you, thank you, and thank, you again. I have been in a very verbally abusive marriage for 10 out of 16 years now. I have finally come to the point that I have separated and the difference is incredible. I was able to have him put in jail for 3 days while I got my kids and I to safety. I was also able to get an order of protection from him for a whole year. He constantly texts me to please forgive him and talk to him even though the kids and his friends tell me that he has not changed. He stalks me and has done physical damage to my car because I will not go back to him. He says that I am to obey him and God orders me back to him and that I do not have [a] choice in the matter.

    I am sticking this one out and there is no way I am putting myself back in that circumstance ever again. My pastor contacted me and wanted to know my stance on what was happening and that our church does not believe that verbal abuse is a biblical grounds for divorce. I wrote them a letter from my heart and they have not said another word to me about the situation at all.

    I believe God opened all the doors that led me to where I am right now. I would wonder how I would get a step accomplished and the door opened up before I even had to enter it. Our God is wonderful and caring. We just have to be open and listen when He tells us what to do. I have begged our church for years for help and all they could do is hand me a book on how I should act as a Christian Lady. I took matters in my own hands and I am happier than ever, and my children finally can call home a haven.

    [Paragraph breaks added to enhance readability. Editors.]

    1. Tersia- wonderful that you found us and that we are able to help you. Your case is, as you will see as you read our articles and the comments, is typical in regard to how your pastor and church have responded to you. Stay free and dont doubt that you are on the right path!

    2. Hi Tersia, welcome to our blog. So glad you found us.
      With those text messages, they are a form of stalking. You also have the car damage and other kinds of stalking, by the sounds of it. I suggest you go back to the police and give them this evidence. See if you can get your ex ‘breached’ for having violated the protection order. You might find if helpful (and supportive) to consult a women’s support service for domestic abuse victims first, as they will know the best way to get the police to act on this stuff, and they will advise you how to gather and present the evidence so the police are most likely to act on what you tell them. It’s a long arduous road, in my experience, getting police to act on breaches, but it can and often should be done. It may indeed somewhat restrain the perpetrator, when he knows the police are breathing down his neck.

      You might also like to read my book as it explains why abuse IS grounds for divorce, and how verbal abuse is just as abusive as physical abuse, and often causes longer term damage to the victim. Abuse is a pattern of coercive control, and your ex certainly fits that definition perfectly by the sounds of it. Never think of yourself as ‘not really a victim’ just because you ‘only’ suffered verbal abuse. Many of our readers here are in the same boat, we are all in this together and we don’t make judgements about the ‘ranking’ of different kinds of abuse. (Except we do talk about degrees of risk, and how some forms of abuse are more likely to end in a lethal outcome.)

      BTW, if he has damaged your property like your car, he has NOT restricted his tactics to verbal abuse only.

  14. For me, “Why Does He Do That” was truly the book that woke me up and helped me come to grips with the fact it was not in my power to change him. But it is God who got me through leaving with 2 small children, the time spent in a shelter and the weekends my boys still have to go spend with their father. Please feel free to visit my blog in which I have been journaling my experience. (I Will Not Be Silent [Internet Archive link])

    Thank you, Jeff, for addressing such a critical issue within the church. We too are in this fight and know first hand the difficulties faced in getting the church to wake up to this issue. I would love to speak with you and learn more about what you’re doing in this area. ( I focus my work on educating young adults in the church on God’s design for a relationship, but our ministry as a whole ministers to all those impacted by abuse.

    Only when we are fulfilled through Christ and not looking to another to satisfy our needs will be able to truly have healthy relationships.

    Once again, thank you for all your work. My prayers are with you.


    1. Alice – I sent you a short welcoming email when I saw you are now following the blog. You can email me at that address and I would be happy to fill you in on how this all came about or whatever other info you would like to have. Thanks very much for your encouragement. Barbara’s email is also on the blog –

  15. I really sincerely appreciate the honesty and truth in this letter. I will probably send it to the senior pastor at my old church. My dad is one of those men who has been enabled by church culture to continue his verbal, sometimes physical, spiritual, and emotional abuse on my family. I got kicked out of the house before I dared to stand up to him, and have continually cried out to the pastors at my old church for help. It has only been in the past 6 months that they finally have done something about it. My family has been at that church for over 4 years, during that time, I met with pastors and asked them for help.

    Thank you for changing your church and for realizing how enabling that culture can be for abusive people. It means a lot to me to see at least one church changing hard and coming down on those who are abusing others.

    1. Caleigh – If you are able to, we would like to hear more of your experience with this issue of an abusive father and how he was enabled by your old church. Of course we understand in most cases the need for anonymity. No pressure at all on you, but just to let you know that you are welcome to tell it.

      1. Whenever and wherever you can. I wish we had an emailing list. Maybe some more of our readers might email any to me and I will forward them to you. In addition, anytime you come across a blogsite that is even remotely related to this subject, put it on as a comment. Does your old church have any kind of network of churches that you might send it to? Wish I could be more helpful.

    2. Hi Calieigh, welcome to our blog. Sorry to hear how you have suffered under your father’s abusiveness and the church’s wanting to turn a blind eye, or minimise the problem. You are not alone. Most of us here have suffered in one way another from this kind of thing. We have a few other readers whose abuse mostly came from one of their parents, rather than from their spouse. Please stick around. We can all learn from and support each other. 🙂
      love from Barb.

  16. my old church just left SGM, so yes, they were/are a part of a HUGE network of churches. I meant that I would be fine with sharing more of my story, but was wondering how you wanted me to share my story….i blog about it a bit at my blog, and another blog I have.

    1. Caleigh – Oh, sorry. Have not had my morning java yet! If you would like, you could email it to me at and I can look it over and put it together as a post. You could put it in a comment to another article but it will get more exposure as a posted article. SGM – oh yeah! We would love to hear about your experiences there. I suspect this has been a very hard journey for you and no doubt many others in that fellowship.

  17. Oh, god. Oh my god. Sorry, I’m crying. I’m sending this to my brother right now, and I pray to God he can use it. My dad was a pastor of a non-denominational but very conservative church and verbally, emotionally and spiritually abused his family while he spent all his time on his ‘ministry’, which meant Other People. We kept getting in his way, with our foolish needing things.

    He eventually committed adultery with a woman on the worship team and was removed from leadership, but that was five years ago and he is now trying to return to a ministry and leadership role.

    He has not changed any of his attitudes. He just a few weeks ago had a huge fight with my mother that I got in the middle of because he was shouting loud enough to rattle the house and I could not hear her to tell if she was crying or not.

    I am thirty years old, and I am still terrified of my dad. But I got mad that day, oh Lord did I get mad. He has never respected her, and I have always felt that he treats her wrongly and speaks to her in a way that is not godly or loving, but I have been a woman, and the black sheep of the family, and I have never had a voice.

    God is giving me one now, and I am done with keeping silent. Authority does not mean that your wife and children should just take your word for everything and never think for themselves. Submission does not mean that they should never question. He has spent twenty years telling my mother and I how wrong we are because we are not submissive enough and don’t respect his authority, by which he means, never dare to disagree with him. He is wrong, and what he has been doing is wrong, and though my mother stood by him when I, personally, thought that she did have biblical grounds for divorce, and still do, God has given her grace to stay where she is.

    But I don’t want her to have to sit under any more abuse, and I hope that my brother can use the insights here and somehow get through to him, because even if I speak to him directly, I won’t. I’m just a woman.

    1. Kagi, I am so glad you found Jeff’s Open Letter helpful. 🙂

      Just a word of caution: it is very unlikely your father will ever change. Your brother may try to reprove and admonish him, but you brother needs to know that most abusers do not change, they fight and resist all attempts to get them to take responsibility for their bad conduct and selfish attitudes.

      It is deeply engrained. Their entire character is defective. See the work of Dr George Simon Jr, a Christian psychologist, for confirmation of this.

      However, there may be hope that your mother can be helped out of the fog and gain confidence to chose freely what she wants for herself, rather than be always be controlled by your father.

      If you read our blog you will see many posts that your mother might find helpful. Also check out our Resources page in the top menu.

      Welcome to our blog. We hope you become part of our cyber community. with hugs from Barb

      1. I’m certainly going to be talking to her as well, and I have been looking through your archives here, I think there are a few that might help her.

        I don’t know if he can change or not – I hope he can, because I know that a lot of his anger is coming out of his own childhood, and I believe that he honestly loves God and wants to do what’s right. I don’t think he understands how abusive his actions truly were, and I think he wants to change, he just has no idea where he is wrong.

        Then again, I have recently been disheartened by how little I have realised he has actually changed in the last five years, and how evident it is that he has only been angling all this time to get back into ministry – but I know he is hurting, too, and a lot of his issues are backlash because his mother came from a broken home and took on a very independent role because there was no father in the home, and in her marriage she often ‘ran things’ in a way that my father felt was diminishing his father, so he made sure no woman would ever do that to him.

        I think. I just figured some of that out just now, actually. Anyway – reading Jeff’s letter, I feel more like he is just one of those leaders that believed this was the scriptural way that men are supposed to be, and he made a lot of mistakes because firstly, I’m pretty sure he was not called to ministry, or at least not in the way he thought, and secondly, he always thought it was supposed to come first and his family second.

        The anger management issues – ehh, I don’t know. I do know that I never felt like anything he did was malicious, and he never crossed the line into anything physical, and I share enough of his temperament to feel pretty sure that he felt like his life was out of control, and was trying to get it back under control in the only way he knew how. He didn’t become a pastor until we had been at that church about ten years, and I know he was very unhappy and depressed before that, and I feel like he was mainly taking out his frustrations on us, but….maybe I am just making excuses for him.

        At any rate, I am going to keep praying and leave it in God’s hands, and I am certainly going to reach out to my mother and try to help her see that it’s nothing she’s doing or not doing, and it’s not her not being submissive enough. Some of the things in the other articles are resonating with me and some of them aren’t, but I maybe just haven’t seen him get really ugly about it yet because he’s never been called on any of the abuse aspects of it before. I am the first person who even thinks it counts, and it’s taken me a long time to get that far.

        I had the sense to leave home when I had the chance, but I ended up with serious health problems and losing my job, apartment, and having to move back in with my parents. Since then I’ve been struggling with depression because I really thought I was free, and then I was right back in the middle of it again. I wish I would have stood up for my mother sooner, but. She’s better at deflecting him than I am. Lots of practice.

        I am still angry though. She raised seven kids for that man, homeschooled all of them, mostly by herself because he sure didn’t give her more than half hearted support at any time and mainly just yelled at us if he did bother to step in. And he still can’t do more than berate her for all of her failings and how she never ‘supported his ministry’ in the way he thought she should (which seems to mean being arm candy and telling him how wonderful he was all the time, I dunno when the hell he thinks she would have had time for that) and now she works two jobs because they are massively in debt because of his stupid investments. He still complains about how she never has time to keep the house clean enough or cook dinner – I’d be getting the same crap if I was in better health. Sometimes I still do, but usually he at least pretends to believe I am actually not feeling up to it. Seizures don’t lie, so I think that scared him a bit.

        Anyway – my best judgement of him is that he is self-centered, blind, ignorant and arrogant, and yeah there’s some entitlement there, and he’s definitely been doing some rationalisation to himself and to us, but he’s not intentionally hurting us. He just believes we owe him these things, and he’s been very hurt and confused in the past when I have tried to explain to him that I feel damaged by his actions and attitudes.

        The thing that gives me pause is that he does try to blame us for all of it – we are the ones who are not right, and if we were right, then he wouldn’t be angry, and wouldn’t end up talking to us like he does. If we just respected him properly, and did what he wanted us to, then…you know the rest, I’m sure. As far as I know, though, he’s never laid a hand on any of us. Even the spanking I remember, unjustified though I felt some of them were, they were pretty mild. I don’t….well, okay. Maybe a couple of them were a little excessive. I can remember twice, and that’s between the seven of us. But I think he’s salvageable, if he’ll actually listen to anyone. The biggest problem is that he doesn’t respect hardly anyone enough to actually hear what they say. He’s only ever had a couple of close friends in my memory, and they mostly haven’t lived nearby. Right now, he has a fairly good relationship with the guy who took over pastoring after him, but I don’t think to the point of taking instruction from him. As far as I’m aware he’s only willing to take instruction from an older man he admired who is now dead and was one of the previous pastors here, and people he doesn’t even know but are famous pastors like John Piper. He’d probably not take it in person, though – just from books that he can interpret how he sees fit.

      2. I want to say how brave you seem to me, Kagi, to be willing to look at all this stuff — stuff which is so painful and ‘yucky’. Well done. As you read more of the blog I’m pretty sure things will clarify even more for you. Sorry to hear about your health problems, and how that has meant you have had to go back to your parent’s house, and how that has affected your mood. Being sick and disabled (all chronic illness affects one’s ability to live a full life) can very easily impact your mood. I know, my mood has been badly impacted by disability and ill health at times.

      3. I am sorry for spamming your blog with long comments, but I do have a couple of questions, some things that are troubling me after reading other posts.

        The gaslighting – I had put down the contradictions in things that he says to his own cognitive dissonance, but the more I think about it, and read through the comments with examples quoted, the more I am not sure. I wish I could ask my mother, but I don’t think I’d better jump in with that, she would respond to some of the other articles better, I think. :/

        I know you are busy but is there someone I could email about this specifically?

    2. Kagi, wow. Your words/story big trigger for me. I feel so much for you. Two and a half years ago about this time I stumbled on the concept of emotional abuse and sites like HurtbyLove. It was like the light bulb went on, I finally had words to describe the years of emotional, psychological, and financial abuse( couldn’t admit the sexual abuse then can barely admit it now) . I immediately passed on this information to the pastor counseling my ex and to my accountability partner and thought that now we know what it is he can heal. I did not love him anymore nor want him near me but still felt protective of him and knew his mom was abusive and I did want him to heal. ( Sorry muddled words because the emotions were/are so muddled). I thought the light bulbs would go on for them too. It didn’t. They did not want to confront him with this information afraid it would “anger him” and still tried to direct me to change my “communication” . I remember asking on the sites I had found if abuser can heal, where was the support and I was very discouraged that the answers I got was most don’t. This was so hard to walk through. I finally had the disease diagnosis but the cure rarely worked and no one around me viewed it as cancer, only the common cold. About a month after this revelation my ex hacked my computer and stole all my emails to the various people about this and so then he knew but still didn’t believe or see himself!! His mother is so emotionally abusive to him and he can’t even see that because he’d have to see himself. I liken it to the cure for Voldemort in the Harry Potter series, he has to really be sorry, to really admit what he has done. To admit your evilness…

      1. Oh, thank you! I am just now getting some confirmation from other people in my family that they are seeing the same things and having the same concerns – not that it’s abuse, we haven’t talked much about that yet, but that it’s definitely not scriptural.

        hugs I’m so sorry to hear that you had to go through that, I know my mother went through a period where she felt like she was crazy and he was trying to get her labeled with a mental disorder and get the church on his side, and the only reason they sided with her eventually, in that instance, was because it came out about his infidelity – but until then, it was all his word against hers, and he was the pastor.

        Now it is five years later I am so disheartened to realise how much he has not changed, and how much of his ‘cooperation’ was only so he could pacify her and get back into ministry, and he still believes that he is in the right about everything. It is her fault about the infidelity, because she will not open up to him and submit to him and her heart is not in the right place, so he turned to this other woman who understood him and was supporting his ministry. It makes me sick, realising how much blaming and rationalisation he has been doing – I thought I was seeing a lot of it, but I really, really wasn’t, until I came here.

        I am just….so stunned, some of the things I have found out in the last 24hrs. He is more lost than I thought, and I have less and less hope that he is going to realise his errors and make real changes. So far he is playing the injured one, and resenting like a little boy the things he had to give up because he got caught cheating. And the last five years he has spent ‘sacrificing’ trying to reach her and show her the way she should be……I am really sad right now. I am so grateful for my mother’s strength and how graciously she has dealt with him all these years, trying so hard to do what was right when he is always telling her she is wrong.

        Sorry, I am kind of incoherent, but thank you for letting me know, it makes me feel less crazy!

  18. And thank you, for what you said, I don’t feel brave, and I am beginning to worry that I have started to repeat some of his patterns of behaviour – I have spent fifteen years praying that I don’t turn into my father. Oh God I really don’t want to have ever done that to someone else.

    1. Kagi, it doesn’t sound to me like you have a mindset of entitlement and superiority like your father does. not at all.
      The fact that you are worried about how you may treat others shows you have an active conscience. Abusers have very little or no conscience. They do what they do because they believe entitled to behave that way, and they do not spend time agonising over how they are hurting others. The only thing they may ‘agonise’ about is the pain that occasionally they have to undergo when they are caught out for their wrongdoing and suffer some kind of penalty. Even their “pain” is totally self serving: it’s all about them, not the people they have hurt.

      1. That does reassure me somewhat, thank you. I know one thing that troubles me about him is how he does not seem to be able to empathise with people who are not like him – gender, race, class, lived experience that in any way differs from his own, recognition that people who are /not him/ deal with different things and struggle with disadvantages that he has never had to care about because they do not apply to him. I have pinned him down and made him admit that he doesn’t believe racism exists in this country, that classism isn’t a thing, which is hilarious to me because he has been poor all his life, but he likes to believe that he will be rich someday, or ought to be, and anyone who has less than him, IS less than him, and should somehow be looked down upon. It bothers me because he spent years at the Rescue Mission as the assistant director and HE SHOULD KNOW BETTER. I feel like he was only ever in ‘ministry’ over there because it made him look good in the community to be seen on the board of a place that ministers to ‘those people’. Ugh. 😦

        I also have a question that I hope someone here on the blog, another reader or whatever, can answer for me – I have been trying to find out info about Theophostic Ministry and how dangerous is it? I feel huge red flags go up in my soul when he brings it up, but he has pushed me a number of times to get ‘counseling’ of this type, saying outright that he thinks he can ‘help’ me, which I find kind of outrageous, but that he wants me to let him help me through a counseling session of this. I feel leery of is merely because he is suggesting it if for no other reason, but also, just the thing itself, ever since I first heard about it when he was getting into it a few years ago, I thought it sounded…off. Does anyone here know anything about it?

      2. Dear Kagi — I have looked into it some, but I am no expert. It seems like it is a prayer ministry that reveals “lies we have believed” so we can take the lies to Jesus and allow Him to speak to us and heal those wounded parts of us. I guess . . . if there were a danger to it, without an experienced counselor . . . a person can “hear” just about anything. IMO, one can read His Word and listen to wise counsel from a trusted pastor and take our own hurts to Christ on our own and rely on His Word and the Holy Spirit. I think, that if you feel big red flags going up . . . listen to those God-given instincts.

      3. My brother does not know much more about it than I do, because my dad was pressuring him the same thing, but he said from what he’s been able to figure out, and this is what I’ve scrounged up on the web, it is based a lot on Inner Healing-type therapy and repressed memories theory, or it was originally.

        At the heart, it does seem to be the basic idea as you stated, yes, and my brother agrees with you that in the right hands the holy spirit could use it to do good in a person’s heart, but that in the wrong hands, it could be very dangerous. The thing I have heard the most, is that the teaching in it’s original form, before they revised it in fear of lawsuits in 2005, was that is was too much dependent on the largely discredited and wholly secular RMT-therapy type of thing, leading people through visualisations and guided imagery, into scenarios that were actually creating false memories because they were saying things like, ‘remember and imagine a time, when you are very small, that you felt X way like you are feeling now, that same feeling, and what memory might have prompted it’ and people’s minds were creating things to fill in the blanks that they didn’t remember, and often bringing up their worst fears, with no way to verify if they had happened or not, and just….it seems to me, introducing more fear and doubt into the heart of someone already wounded.

        Now, it seems that after the revision, they have taken out this guided imagery visualisation stuff and told people who had taken the training (none of whom ever have to go throuigh any kind of professional licencing or accreditation, many of whom were lay persons with no prior counseling experience at all), to put a disclaimer on their websites that they were not ‘affiliated’ with the Ministry proper….that all sounds dodgy to me. Something is wrong there, at the foundation. I think it can and has helped some people, but I am leaning more and more towards feeling that those people were very lucky.

      4. Kagi, I think you and your brother’s research is probably reasonably accurate though I am not up to speed with the details of where the Theophostic Ministry movt is at, the founder certainly did revise his guidelines or the way he expressed things at some point. Hank Hanegraff’s ministry Christian Research Institute [Internet Archive link] has a good critique of Theophostic Ministry, giving pros and cons.

        But bottom line, if you father was doing Theophostic Prayer Ministry or was even able to sit on the sidelines ‘in prayer support’ while some other person was doing it, he would inject his own terrible biases into it. He is not a true man of God; his track record clearly shows that and he has not rehabilitated or truly repented after the heinous stuff he’s done. He would bring his distorted doctrines to the prayer ministry and use it as a cudgel to bludgeon you into changing into the person he thinks you should be.

        Such a man would bring discredit to the practice of Theophostic Counselling. I am fearful for the Theophostic Ministry movement, to hear that a man like your father has grabbed the ideas and is using them to hammer his prejudices onto others.

      5. Hanegraff’s name is ringing alarm bells for me also, for some reason, I cannot remember why or where I’ve heard his name before, but I will take a look. Most of what I found seemed kind of biased toward….hyperbole? “This will tear your church apart through false accusations because it sows so many false memories!” Some of the most balanced stuff I found was on a Seventh Day Adventist site, but I could not seem to find anything on it from survivors – it was all critiques from other ministries or counselors, and I am doubting enough things right now that I am not sure I trust my gut, heh.

        But, everything I found, mainly reinforced my feeling that howsoemever it might be used by others, it would indeed be dangerous, especially to me, if it came via my father, and I agree that if others like him have found and are using it – I only found rumors of this, nothing concrete, it was maddening – I did find quite a number of positive things, but it was hard to sort out which ones were coming from sources that might be suspect. I didn’t see anything about it in places I already knew and had some measure of trust in, which is why I asked here.

        But if people like him are using it, I think it is capable of causing some major damage. I don’t know that this is an inherent flaw in TPM, as it’s currently taught and practiced, only that from what I can tell of how he means to be using it, it would be very dangerous to anyone he had any sort of power over, if they were to open themselves to him in that way.

        I hope that kind of thing isn’t widespread, and the lack of what I’ve found would seem to suggest that, that it’s not being used damagingly by many as of now, but if he’s found something to exploit in it, no doubt others have as well, I would think?

  19. Oh and that they were very insistent on some kind of ‘re-traumatization’ of victims, that they had to relive their experiences and all their feelings at the time, and then imagine Jesus there and what he would say to them….how in the what now? No, no one should be asked to go through that! I am pretty confident that my God is big enough to heal my memories without me having to relive them, thanks! Right? Am I like way off base here?

    1. I think like many of the things God does, he varies his approach according to each individual and his overall plan of how things are to work out. Some survivors seem to revisit the vividness of memories as part of their healing, often but not always with the help of a trauma counselor who can help them stay grounded so that the re-visiting is not merely a flood of re-traumatization but involves integration and healing. Other times God seems to heal the person’s inner wounds without them having to revisit the memories consciously. Often it seems to be a bit of one and a bit of the other, differing for each memory or memory cluster.

      But whatever way(s) healing happens, the best rule of thumb is to trust your gut when choosing counselors or friends who will companion you through the journey.

      1. I don’t have any confirmation of that particular bit, it seems like it must have come from one of the more alarmist accounts I found, so I am kinda sorry I mentioned it, but I found it so alarming, the idea. Er, which I guess is the point of ‘alarmism’. I am trying to sort through a lot of things and feel less muddled, here, it seems I am quite incoherent today. I am glad to hear that it is, at least, not a standard / required part of the process.

  20. I praise God for this article. I felt a million pound load fly off my back this week in relation to spousal abuse for several reasons, this is just an amazing confirmation of God’s incredible mercy. He hears the cry of the weak and the oppressed!

  21. Thank you for posting this. It took me 17 years to recognize that I was, in fact, in an abusive marriage and another 8 years to figure out what to do about it. Many attempts at marriage counselling failed as somehow the blame was always shifted back to me and I sat and watched counsellor after counselor being manipulated. After finally having the courage to leave the marriage.. a 6th counselor.. who my ex-husband saw on his own and finally became honest with, called me and told me that I was in an abusive marriage and that I had Biblical grounds for divorce, but that he wanted me to work on it. This was 10 years too late.. I felt the jail cell I had been living in for so long open and I couldn’t stay in it for one more minute. That was 10 years ago. I am building a new life. Its taken a lot of hard work and I am slowly healing. Recently, I started attending a new church and I listened to a sermon on divorce.. in it the pastor said that the only biblical grounds for divorce are adultery and abandonment. He mentioned that in cases of abuse the couple should separate and go to counselling for 2 – 3 years. This mindset upsets me and causes me to fear for current abuse victims. I am afraid that my new pastor does not understand abuse. This post is so very important, I truly believe that spousal abuse needs to be addressed in seminaries and pastors need to be educated.

    1. Carol, The pastor’s broad brush idea of counseling for 2-3 years is mindboggling, and yes, it is a disturbing mindset. Where in the world do they come up with these ideas? What ever happened to church discipline? The ignorance concerning domestic abuse within the evangelical church is inexcusable but we need to continue to share our stories, comfort those mistreated by the church, and complain. Abuse is far too common to be so mishandled by pastors and I agree that they desperately need training. It is unbelievable pastors are so unprepared by the seminary that the majority are incompetent to deal with abuse within their church and we hear of many pastors who cause more problems than they solve. Thank you for sharing your story and I am glad that you finally got out of the abuse.

  22. I just want to add that the church need not be as conservative as you were to chase the victim of domestic abuse away. All they have to do is downplay her abuse and accept the abuser as “healed”. Then the next step is to pressure the victim to forgive and test her motives for wanting to have the abuser removed. She has no choice but to leave then and lose her church and her friends, feeling judged. This was very subtle by the elders but painful nonetheless for the victim

  23. On Sept 7, 2012, Barbara posted an Anonymous comment to this effect:
    “The only part of Jeff’s letter that would cause the pastors in my previous church to wave it away is that they are egalitarian compared to many other places. Women preach, women pastor and women vote. They have never preached on submission or headship. They are supportive of women who are divorced although they would never want to advocate for divorce be seen supporting it.”

    Then in Barbara’s response, she asked if Anon would be willing to draft this type of letter.

    My question is … has such a letter ever been drafted to anyone’s knowledge? The reason I am asking is that my former church needs to read something like this, but they are more like Anon’s church in that women are permitted to pray, lead singing and Bible studies, etc. They don’t fit the basic church outlined in the letter and yet they are blind to the abuse in their midst. A couple of years ago, my soon-to-be-ex stood up and yelled at the pastor during a sermon. Our abuser made us leave the church soon after, and later when the kids and I wanted to visit that church on holidays, the church leadership repeatedly dis-allowed us from attending. We had attended that church over 5 years, and the children and I were very involved (ex rarely ever attended with us – and it was amazing he let us attend), and yet they never once asked if there was abuse in the home, or even asked how we were doing, despite his show of abuse in the church! Due to how bad things were at home, the children and I considered that church a haven, and yet they never considered that we might need their support after our abuser made us leave the church. Then their not letting us attend even holiday events without him, really hurt deeply. Either they are blind to, or ignorant of, abuse. I’d love to see an open letter to other kinds of churches as well.

    1. No, no such letter has been drafted yet. Would someone like to volunteer to do it? I am really busy right now. If any regular reader wants to do a first draft and email it to Jeff Crippen, that would be good. I think he might appreciate input as he has not a great deal of experience in churches of that kind. I’ll also get in touch with the Anon reader who first suggested this idea, to see if she can make input.

      Thanks, Isaiah40:31 for prompting us to tie up this loose end. 🙂

    1. Btw, readers, Natalie suffered great injustice from Doug Wilson and his church in Moscow Idaho.

      And just be aware that if you go to her blog and read her posts about her abuse, there may be triggers for you, esp if you have suffered child sexual abuse.

  24. Thank you so much Pastor Jeff! I have recently acknowledged that I am a woman who experienced abuse in my marriage for 40 years and didn’t know it. I have been a regular attending member the United Church of Canada my entire adult life. I have been profoundly touched by your taking responsibility for the churches role in perpetuating the belief that God does not abide divorce. This website is contributing to my healing. Thanks be to God.

  25. Just sent this to the pastor of a Domestic Abuse VIctim I am laboring with.
    ‘He’ is laboring with the abuser…
    This is one of many resources from ACFJ his inbox is getting filled with…

  26. Thanks, Jeff. My wife and I have had a long and hard journey. We were both raised in a pretty conservative church. We both had emotionally abusive and distant fathers. We were starting to repeat the cycle with our own children when God started waking us (mainly her) up to the fact that we were essentially demanding perfect righteousness from a 4-5 year old.

    Like you, as we started to really understand how we should parent and how much of what we demanded was not obedience to God, but slavery to us. We realized that we were not treating them with the respect and self-worth they needed to protect themselves against physical and sexual abuse in the future. Like you, we found that well-researched and well-written secular books gave us a much better understanding than all but a few Christian books on wise, loving and gracious parenting.

    As we worked out what it meant to operate within our God-given authority as parents, it became more and more evident that the some of the authority figures in our church were merely lifting themselves up at the expense of the congregation. The others either supported, were unaware, or kept silent out of fear. My (sinful) desire for value and worth just gave them more ammunition to use to demean me. My ideas were all stupid, until the leaders came up with them six months later at which point they were brilliant. We left for another church, which was more noble, but still treated all non-leaders as inferior. I like the way you say it. They would deny it, but their actions showed otherwise.

    There was finally an incident that left me angry and unsettled enough to realize that the abuse was repeating in the new church. Interesting that the very anger so despised in conservative churches was the push I needed to walk away.

    1. MarkQ, when you said

      My (sinful) desire for value and worth just gave them more ammunition to use to demean me. My ideas were all stupid,

      I gather you mean “My (as defined by them sinful) desire for value and worth just gave them more ammunition to use to demean me. My ideas were all stupid, (according to them)… ”

      Correct me if I’m wrong. 🙂

  27. This issue isn’t only a problem with the church. I was in an emotionally abusive marriage for 16 years and during it we spent 8 years in secular counseling. I didn’t realize I was being abused and manipulated at that time. I was the one that was an emotional wreck, always crying etc. while he was Mr. Charming nice guy with the incompetent unhinged wife. Often quoted was “insanity is doing the same thing and expecting different results”. So, I was always under pressure to change because we can only change ourselves (true), but the part they left out or failed to show me because either they were fooled or not allowed to point it out to me directly, was that no matter what changes I made they would never be the “right” ones or pleasing to him.

    Only after I had to call the police, when he physically abused my son, did a counselor from CPS tell me what was really going on. I was crying to her and telling her that there was something really wrong with me and I didn’t know what it was but my life was always horrible and it was always my fault. And I had been going to counseling for years and still didn’t know what was wrong with me. Then she said the words, “You are in an abusive relationship, your husband is a narcissist.” I was both shocked and then I felt angry that my other counselors had let me down (one was a psychiatrist) that I liked and had a great deal of respect for him.

    My point being that it is not just in the church where victims get further hurt and made to feel it is all their fault when you are dealing with a master manipulator wolf in sheep’s clothing. After, he spent the night in jail, he recruited our neighbor’s against me and my son, and I received what I later learned were “flying monkey” attacks from these people.

    I foolishly kept trying to make the marriage work for three years after this happened. Then I watched in amazement when he turned on his “flying monkey’s” one year later. Part of wanting it to work out was my fear of having no finances and having no support.

    I’m out for good now but it isn’t easy. I have an autoimmune disease, massive debt, no friends in this area but I’m not being abused anymore and hopefully I will eventually be able to make friends. I try to treat myself well, knowing that God loves me, and that is enough.

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