A Cry For Justice

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

When Matthew 18 Breaks Down — by Persistent Widow, one of our readers

[Note from Jeff C and Barb: We are publishing this post to hold churches accountable and to expose the injustices they effect.]

If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.   Matthew 18:15-17 ESV

Dear A Cry For Justice Friends,

Earlier this month, I wrote the following letter to my previous pastor after my son disclosed that the pastor had discussed some of the content of what I assumed was confidential information. This teenager’s misbehavior was the reason that I sought help from the church at the onset. The thought of filing for divorce was not even in my mind at the time I first contacted the church several years ago-I just wanted to get help for my son. I thought that this was biblical. Even when this church conducts baptisms, part of the congregational response is a commitment to help raise the child. My original purpose in confiding with the church was to seek discipline for my husband’s civil disobedience that was influencing my son.

Dear Pastor ______,

I felt it inappropriate that you would send details of your and my private conversations, stating my fears and concerns about _____(my ex), in an open letter to ______(my ex) considering his violent nature. I also found it embarrassing that you would encourage my situation to be open to scorn by the ______ (Church A) children, which was overheard by my daughter at the swimming pool. However, I have largely overlooked those incidents.

_______(my son) contends that he spoke with you concerning the issues that I brought to the_______ (church A ) session, and that you gave him details about the mediation and your own personal opinions. This alleged conversation provided details, which have been used discredit me, and to give validation for his father’s actions. If what ________(my son) contends took place, it has caused a lot of damage to my family.

I am writing to ask you if it is true that you discussed my information with _______(my son). Also, I would like to know what assurance I have that any information that I provided to the session, has and will be kept confidential, and handled in a professional manner. Because _______(my son) is leaving soon, I would like to have clarification of these matters beforehand. I am requesting the courtesy of a reply before May 1st.

This letter was sent to church A and I sent a copy of it to my new PCA church which I will call church B. I would like to add that my son passed the information that he gleaned from the pastor to my ex-husband. His response was to threaten my life — this breach of confidentiality had serious consequences. Also, it made parenting my son very difficult with his taunting me about how the church would not support me. I thought by bringing this to their attention, they would finally see what damage their mishandling of my case caused, and I thought that I might at least get an apology.

I asked, in writing, that church B follow up for me, informing them that previously church A had sent me a letter that they would no longer respond to any mail that I sent them, I had to bring any issues to my new church, Church B, and they would bring it to Church A.

After a distressing morning at church, I wrote a brief synopsis of my current situation on a recent post here at A Cry For Justice. I can’t help but think that this sermon was designed to guilt me for not being forgiving and pressing the issue with church A, but never have I ever received anything that remotely resembled an apology from them. Also the in the sermon, people who did not forgive their brother were equated with the Boston bombers — often being goaded by others in the background. I think this is in reference to A Cry for Justice. He also stated that he didn’t like all of the sheep, although he had to shepherd them anyway. Shortly after the oppressive sermon, I was told by the pastor that Church B would not get involved in following up on Church A. I asked Church B to put their response in writing. The pastor seemed loathe to do so, knowing that I keep a file, but said that they would. I can’t wait to see that explanation!

Yesterday, I was surprised to receive a letter from church A in my mail. I wondered, could it be an apology for all that they put me through? I thought it might even be a “We’re sorry that you were offended” letter, or “Rest assured, your information is safe with us” letter.

Here it is:

We received your letter dated March 29, 2013. In our last letter to you May 25, 2012 we wrote the following: Now that you are under the shepherding oversight of ______(Church B), and its elders, we consider that any requests you might have should be brought first to them and no longer directly to us. That means that if you have further need to interact with the _____(Church A) session, items should be first brought by you to your current session, and then the session of ______(Church B) will bring them to us if necessary. Any further letters from you directly to us will be returned without response.

Therefore, in keeping with what we wrote, we will not be responding directly to you concerning your letter. This does not indicate any type of positive or negative response to any questions you may have posed in this letter. We are only following the process we said we would.

Signed The Session of _______(Church A)
By Moderator, Clerk of Session and a Ruling Elder

So, in the content of Matthew 18, I was pressed to forgive my brother, (the pastor at church A, who never apologized), who, when I brought my grievance to him, told me to contact church B. But church B refuses to get involved! What to make of this breakdown of Matthew 18?

47 Comments

  1. The really tragic thing about all of this is you are being penalized for trying to play by the rules. This is the aspect of all of this that really gets to me over and over again- if we didn’t care for the things of God or have a desire to do things in a way that brings him glory, we wouldn’t struggle with stuff like this. You would think the church would recognize the hearts of folks who really want to honor God and do whatever it takes to help them find peaceful resolutions where possible.

    Incidently, in my church my former pastor also revealed to others some things I told him in confidence. When I approached him about this, he apologized and went so far as to go to those he’d told and tell them that he was wrong to do so. And even with that real apology and act of repentence, it still was one of the most painful things I’ve ever endured. I can’t imagine how much worse it would be if he’d acted as if he were right to have done so.

  2. Anonymous

    Well now, I have a lot to say on this matter. First of all, this type of “hierarchy government” within the Church, is exactly what Jesus was saying not to be, when He addressed the Pharisees of the day, and told the others “not to be like them!”. No where in Matthew 18, does it say to throw people out of the Church, and no where does it say to treat them as a heathen, because they came to you for help and you could not and would not help them, or because their problems irked you. I understand that you have been forced to give in to their spiritual abuse. I understand that you have been ousted on the Matthew 18 rights you have on your end. But the Bible also says that if an elder is in sin, to give him an “open rebuke”. I would work on that, if I were you. My only “good” counsel to you, would be to leave any “c”hurch (denomination) that insists that they govern over God; a “c”hurch who believes they have the only right interpretation of Scripture; and a “c”hurch that spiritually abuses the sheep (evil) and calls it good.

    It sounds like the last thing you need, is more abuse to fight. However, if you believe that this “c”hurch has endangered your life, or broken the law, get a lawyer or take those “c”hurches to the National Church, so THEY can be disciplined. I know there are Churches out there that will help you get justice. It is time to make them accountable for endangering families and not taking abuse seriously. It is worth noting, that those verses in Scripture apply to all of us, especially leaders, and that when leaders break the laws of the land, they should be held to a higher account, because they are leaders, just as the Word says they should be.

    Would you be willing to privately share the name of this Church? I think we should start a private link of some sort, to list all the names of the “c”hurches that have abused, so that we will all know where NOT to go, or maybe give the names of those “c”hurches to Jeff C. and Barb to keep and then we can contact them for the list. We wouldn’t want it to be in a place where it could be hacked and then seen by others, namely our enemies.

    I honestly believe that God is allowing so many of us to go through these types of things, to bring it all down. Just think. How many of us have prayed that the abuse will stop with our generation? How many of us just want abuse put to death? Well, now is our time, just as it was Esther’s time – and that applies to women and men – for such a time as this. God wants to bring down the devil’s work, but someone must go through it, in order for that to happen. I am not saying that God intentionally inflicts abuse or that He approves. It is simply that we are where we are, but that God can use it to end it and to destroy what has held us for so long. Trust me, you will be unscathed when you get on the other side of this. Untouched in the sense that you belong to God and He will restore and heal you from all of this. He will bind up your broken-heartedness and heal all your wounds. It is a long, slllooowww road and extremely hard work and ups and downs and days you would rather die, because of all the pain. But when you can see the shoreline on the other side and even though you show up there, a total wreck, you will know that God has done a great work, and the enemy’s bite will not poison you anymore; and Christ will use it to make certain others in the future are not abused. Then God will heal and restore you and make you strong again and most importantly – you will be made new (no more abuse for you!) and most importantly, you will be free. You will know and understand, that this was part of God’s way of using your life, to bring down the works of darkness. We are called to expose them, my dear, so expose them and let God win here.

  3. As I See It Only

    Well, it seems that I am not alone. Go figure. i too have found that although church [c’hurt’] policies seem to say that there is internal review and a justice and appeal process, the reality is far different. People can be ridiculed by elders for reading their Bibles, slammed by boards for asking for help, trodden underfoot by sessions that refuse to deal with wayward leadership. Here is a little-known or applied Scripture: 1 Timothy 5:19-20. Elders [leaders?] who sin are to be rebuked publicly as a warning to others. None of that just-between-you-and-me stuff of Matthew 18 when we are dealing with a power imbalance. Has anyone ever witnessed this? I have never heard of it being done.
    As we near the final harvest, both righteousness and wickedness are ripening. Seeing the immature forms of both, we may have been confused. That confusion is coming to an end. Not only people, but churches and denominations are being seen for what they really are. Often we are shocked and dismayed. Many times we feel cheated and deceived. These folk take the Lord’s Name in vain and that raises our ire, for we detest such things. At the same time we jump for joy, knowing that the Lord’s harvest is near.

    • As we near the final harvest, both righteousness and wickedness are ripening. Seeing the immature forms of both, we may have been confused. That confusion is coming to an end. Not only people, but churches and denominations are being seen for what they really are. Often we are shocked and dismayed. Many times we feel cheated and deceived. These folk take the Lord’s Name in vain and that raises our ire, for we detest such things. At the same time we jump for joy, knowing that the Lord’s harvest is near.

      Amen!
      Thank you for those insightful words, AISIO.

    • katy

      Amen to that too, I pray that we are nearing that time!!

    • KingsDaughter

      “As we near the final harvest, both righteousness and wickedness are ripening. Seeing the immature forms of both, we may have been confused. That confusion is coming to an end. Not only people, but churches and denominations are being seen for what they really are.”

      Amen!

    • Barnabasintraining

      As we near the final harvest, both righteousness and wickedness are ripening.

      Good point.

  4. downtheroad

    What a painful and totally avoidable pain you have to deal with,there is no EXCUSE whatever for putting your life in DANGER,i was so mad when i read this that if i had been you i would have been outside that church sunday morning with a BANNER SAYING ,DONT CONFIDE IN THE LEADERSHIP, MY LIFE WAS PUT IN DANGER BY THEM BETRAYING CONFIDENCES. I would then have complained to the main office of the church and even the Police.
    I dont go to church anymore, precisely because of this sort of treatment,being told to back to a dangerous Husband, that i was in the WRONG, is my life worth so little?
    The same churches which stand against abortion, and Euthansia, supporting the valus of human life, are valuing the lives of there women so little? ‘In the book ‘battered into submission’, They say that the Pastors who told women to go back to Violent Husbands, when their own daughters are in the situation, they feel so guilty about the advice they gave.!!
    I am praying for you,for justice, God bless you. elisa

  5. Jeff Crippen

    I must confess that I have come to develop a distaste for these forms of church government. Oh, I know that local Baptist churches do their share of serving up injustice as well, but the intricate legal structures of sessions and presbyteries and church courts (I hate that phrase, “church court”) with specifications for charges and “accusatory instruments” is something I simply cannot reconcile with Scripture. And for all of their structure and careful processes, they hardly ever render justice to anyone. In addition, the wheels and gears of these machinations turn soooooo slowly that it is like trying to get justice from a convening of a bunch of Ents.

    • katy

      “like trying to get justice from a convening of a bunch of Ents”

      aaaand.. LOTR reference for the win! 🙂 I told a friend yesterday that I’m like Eowyn – when asked what she was afraid of – “A cage!” oh yeah 😉

    • Yes. Thinking of the Presbyterian Church of Australia, I don’t think I can recall one instance of church discipline which was taken through the various levels of the ‘church courts’ and which brought justice and righteousness in the end.

      But I do know of one instance, a very significant one, in the PCA (Presbyterian Church of America) where the multiple level of church court eventually brought down a good decision. That was the case which led to the production of the PCA non-binding ruling which said the abuse is grounds for divorce on the basis of 1 Cor. 7:15. I referred to this ruling in my book. The man who told me the whole back story was Professor David Clyde Jones, who was Ethics Professor at Covenant Seminary. I am very grateful for Dr Jones as he has supported my work and continues to support survivors of abuse.

    • Anonymous

      It seems the only ones glorified in those matters of their “justice”, are the power mongers who love to sit in the chief seats of authority, tie up heavy burdens on others’ shoulders, never lift a finger to help, love respectful greetings and to be called “pastor” or “elder”, who put on a show for others as to distract people from the true God, and who shut off the Kingdom of heaven from people who just want Jesus and His will and His justice. But what does Jesus say to them? He says “therefore you will receive greater condemnation”. What they do, is not Matthew 18, even though they call it that. Instead, it is the Pharisaical government rearing its ugly head today, and Christ said to have nothing to do with them. This denomination in particular, claims to be the Israel of today. If that is true, then they are certainly acting like Israel acted then and don’t forget, God divorced Israel, for their unbelief, injustice toward the true sheep and doing things their own way.

      My advice is to take it to another Presbyterian Church, outside of your own presbytery and go as high as you can go, the first time. No messing around with them. I stated earlier, that elders are biblically required to be given an “open rebuke” – which means no laying low when it comes to those who want to wear the badge of “leader”/”elder”, but abuse their power and authority and do it in Christ’s name.

      • Why oh why did I not think about the open rebuke “clause” when my ex pastor was abusing me?!?!?!

  6. Wendell G

    I am very hesitant to suggest civil court with church matters, but considering the very real harm inflicted upon you, it might be time to consider bringing in a lawyer. I don’t know, but in some states, breach of such confidentiality may even be against the law.

    I am seeing so much now that the modern church is becoming the monolith that the pharisees and saducees created prior to Jesus. It is all about power and image and not about really caring for people. No wonder the world is sickened by Christians. There are so few who truly treat people as Christ did.

    My wife encountered similar resistance when she caught an Episcopal rector and his wife embezzling money from the church she was a bookkeeper for. Nothing happened to him and she ended up having to leave.

    Evil certainly does exist at the top of many church structures.

  7. Friend of the Oppressed

    This IS the heart of the matter right here. This is systematic of a breakdown of godly leadership. We are being governed by ‘c’hurches in misogyny (women hating). They do not believe in equality in Christ as described in Galatians 3:27-29. They believe men are superior to women and twist the scriptures for their own agenda.

    ‘C’hurches, ‘P’astors, are over-stepping their boundaries and abusing their authority, in the name of our Redeemer. And who are they abusing? Literally, Christ’s beloved, His Bride, the wives and children of the ‘c’hurch! They abuse the innocent ones that even the world system believes should be protected. Christ will have His justice. Take courage, my sisters and brothers in the Lord!

    Ecclesiastes 3 says “There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven… A time to tear down and a time to build up…. a time to tear apart and a time to sew together; a time to be silent and a time to speak. A time to love and a time to hate; a time for war and a time for peace.” This is THE spiritual war of our generation.

    I keep reading how ignorant “they” are, including John Piper, John MacArthur, David Powlison, et al, the representatives of this system that has become about power and control. Saying “they” are ignorant is gracious. They “claim” how important the family is to them. I submit to you, they are acting like abusers. They take the Bible and use it against the oppressed. The way they behave, snickering (John Piper) at treachery and becoming angry when challenged like they feel threatened losing something very dear to them, their power and control. I believe THAT is what they are afraid of.

    I agree with Anonymous about some kind of ‘c’hurch roll, that these places should be named. My concern in that is, I can also see how that in itself could be abused, if at some point those churches might repent, which seems more and more unlikely. But a public roll of accountability, I agree with that. The ‘P’astor with which I’ve been dealing, his name should be on that roll. I have realized, I am my own best advocate. I must have the courage to protect myself and my daughter. I am taking off the gloves and calling their sin what it is. I do not care any longer what “they” think of me. That, in itself, takes away their power. Forced submission is no longer submission, it is oppression. They want to oppress us into silence.

    I stand with you, the oppressed and afflicted. I lift my voice and add it to this choir! Our voices have already reached Heaven! May He guide and direct us in all wisdom in shining the light on this outrageous treacherous scandal hidden in the evangelical and fundamentalist ‘c’hurch under the guise of “submission.”

    “The proper response is outrage.” Lundy Bancroft. May the Lord give me temperance and wisdom. May the LORD be glorified!

    • The team at the back of this blog has discussed compiling a list of pastors, churches and parachurch groups that have been dangerous to victims of abuse. Unfortunately, we don’t at this stage have the time to do this. In a public blog , if we were to name names we would need to give citations and links to verifiable statements of what each of those bad leaders or teachers had said in order to protect ourselves legally. We have written posts (and will continue to do so) that name authors and teachers who we believe have taught wrong things, but always we have given citations and/or links to their work. To name a church without giving such a citation would be legally very dangerous.

      A way of sharing this information more safely might be on a password protected forum with membership being only open to trusted readers of this blog, but such a forum would need people to moderate it. None of us on the team have the time for that: we are flat out and behind as it is. I personally feel like one giant bottleneck. This is a matter for prayer and being very cautiously led by the Spirit, I think.

      I don’t think that Jeff and I have the time to keep a private list of such places and be able to pass that info on to a reader who might inquire; we are so flat out already.

    • KingsDaughter

      Dear Friend,
      I love this! It takes great courage to say and do this;
      “I must have the courage to protect myself and my daughter. I am taking off the gloves and calling their sin what it is. I do not care any longer what “they” think of me. That, in itself, takes away their power. Forced submission is no longer submission, it is oppression. They want to oppress us into silence.

      I stand with you, the oppressed and afflicted. I lift my voice and add it to this choir! Our voices have already reached Heaven! May He guide and direct us in all wisdom in shining the light on this outrageous treacherous scandal hidden in the evangelical and fundamentalist ‘c’hurch under the guise of ‘submission.”’

      When we put more weight on what man says the Bible says, than what the Bible says it says (it NEVER contradicts itself) we are GUILTY of violating the very first commandment. Where can we go from there?

  8. Friend of the Oppressed

    Here is an excellent blog entry “Misunderstandings About Biblical Headship and Submission” by Leslie Vernick, Christian Counselor and author of “The Emotionally Destructive Relationship”. http://www.leslievernick.com/2012/09/24/misunderstandings-about-biblical-headship-and-submission/

  9. Little Chrissy

    “They take the Bible and use it against the oppressed. The way they behave, snickering (John Piper) at treachery and becoming angry when challenged like they feel threatened losing something very dear to them, their power and control. I believe THAT is what they are afraid of.”

    Amen!

    They are the opposite of Christ : they desire, no, DEMAND sacrifice before mercy. They are not my leaders! My response is outrage!

    • Amen Little Chrissy!!!!

  10. Sadly, what you ‘make’ of this breakdown is that you are dealing with two churches who refuse to deal justly. A pox on them both. Move on from them. If they cannot be trusted to deal justly, they cannot be trusted at all.

    • The sad thing is that may only be the pastor and one elder who deals injustice to the survivor; she may have good friends and supporters in the rest of the congregation, and longstanding shared history with them and familial ties with other families thru her kids knowing other kids in that church. Yes, leaving a church which is dealing out grave injustice to you is usually the only way to handle it, but so much else can be lost in the process. It is the velvet-gloved equivalent of shunning. The victim is driven out into the rain and the cold outside the camp, leaving all her old friends and acquaintances in the church because they don’t have the understanding, belief, or moral courage to stand up the to corrupt leadership.

      • I agree, Barbara, that it is a sad situation. But there is no remedy for it except for a church insurrection or departure. I truly grieve for those who can find no help for the helpless among those who claim that they have received help for their helplessness in Christ.

  11. Friend of the Oppressed

    I totally understand, Barbara. Any list of this sort would need to be so carefully compiled that it might be impossible to do such a thing. Thank you, all of you, who make this community possible. Thank you for all your dedication and the long hours you put in. We see your heart of compassion and are so very grateful.

    I am feeling both exceedingly outraged and defensive right now. I believe both are required. But I also want to honor God. It is difficult to balance and sort out all of these emotions. It is a joy to finally be understood and validated.

    In the Shadow of His wings.

  12. As I See It Only

    The ‘higher assemblies’ fail to do justice. The courts of the land refuse to take up the cause against religious bodies. Who are the Church Police? Where do I file a complaint????

    • Anonymous

      If the Church breaks the laws of the land, then you have the civil courts of this country to help you, which is the way God intended it to be. If the Church won’t be it’s own police, then as Larry Dean said above, “move on from them”. I will add this. If I have placed myself under a group of leaders, in order to allow them to help guide me to Christ and watch for my soul with me, and I cannot trust them to do what is right, then what on earth am I doing, staying under their leadership?!? I think this, for me, may be just another part of the victimization in my life, working itself out all the way to the doorsteps of the Church! Why, oh why, would I leave my abuser, just to move in with another group of them, under the guise of the “c”hurch? I have done it, but unknowingly. Now, I am much more careful and I also realize that while those men are given a job to do by God to help me, it is my full responsibility to hold those same men to account, even giving open rebuke, when they fail God and wrongly elevate themselves to the place only God holds and abuse in the process.

  13. Barnabasintraining

    My head is spinning. I don’t know why as it seems to be common place for this kind of thing and has been for hundreds of years. Still, when it comes home to you, it is hard to believe.

    Boston bombers???

    In any case, church A and church B sound like peas in a pod. 😦

  14. Anonymous

    Okay, I hope I can say this right. I learned a lot from Jeff C., and a note he wrote me about missing the garlic and leeks and heading back to my Egypt. So, I looked through those verses and this is my own interpretation of how I can apply those to my life today. Maybe it will help someone else here.

    First of all, it is very hard for an abuse victim, to trust the voice of God, because it can be so muffled after so many years of being “knocked around”, no matter how that “knocking around” came about. So, I understand that and am not saying that any of this is easy. But, when we leave or divorce or separate or put our abuser out, a new life begins. Things are different. They can be very scary and our temptation can be to return to the Egypt that was so familiar. I believe this becomes especially true, as least it did for me, when I went out and faced an oppressive, abusive “c”hurch scenario. I felt God tell me to leave the abusive “c”hurch, but I was so afraid. I was afraid of what they would think of me and the last thing I needed at that time, was someone questioning my Christianity. So, I did not leave when I should have and by the grace and favor of God Almighty, they ended up throwing me out. I have to say I thought it was going to kill me. But, much like the blind man in John 9, they put me out, because I brought Jesus with me when I came in, and they could not deal with Jesus. I would not follow their advice and allow my abuser back in to continue abusing, and they just could not accept that I would not bow to their endangering me and my children. There was only feigned repentance, in other words, no true repentance on the part of my abuser.

    When I read the passages from Exodus 14:10-15, this is what I see. I see people who left their oppressive, abusive slave driving land, by God’ grace and deliverance, to go to the Promised Land. I see people who became so afraid once they were out of the hands of the Egyptians, that they longed for the slavery, abuse and oppression they were so familiar with, instead of the wilderness that was so unfamiliar to them. At least there in Egypt, they knew what was going to happen. It is the same with me. I don’t know what is going to happen, so when fear strikes, I wonder where I would have been better off.

    When I was then faced with an abusive “c”hurch, I became very afraid, just like the Egyptians did, and I didn’t know what to do. I wanted to be able to trust someone, but I couldn’t. I didn’t want to go back to the abuser, I wanted to get to Jesus and no matter what road I took, it was leading me away from Him, and because I belong to Him, I knew it was leading me away. Notice in verses 13-15, Moses tells them not to be afraid but to stand still and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will accomplish for them, and that they will never see their oppressors again. But then the Lord says to Moses, “Why are you crying out to Me? Tell the sons of Israel to go forward.” This is huge to me. I read this and thought, “oh yeah! God freed me to go forward, so I need to keep moving that direction.” I am now in the place, where I am trusting the voice of God inside me and following Him, as best I can. My pendulum still swings. If someone comes along and confuses me, I just note that God would not confuse me and try to “go forward”, but their voice can haunt me with doubt and questions. I have struggled with needing others’ approval, because I think I was just so torn down that I did not believe I could trust myself or my decisions. That is all part of abuse. We all deal with that. But, I CAN trust God to lead me and protect me, even if I am not sure what to do or where to follow Him to. The Israelites did not know where they were going for sure. The last thing I want to do, is end up in another “wilderness” (ie. “c”hurch) that just abuses me further. So, I have made a decision, that at the first sign of abuse of authority and leadership, I am out the door and on my way to another Church. “Go forward” No taking it laying down anymore. If I cannot trust the leaders to lead me to God and not prevent me from getting to Him, the true Him, then I must, and I mean MUST “go forward” and keep moving on. I don’t ever want to be stuck again. I cannot afford to go backwards.

    • TrustingGodandBeingBrave

      Anonymous, thank you, thank you for this comment. I too, struggle with thoughts of going back. I know that I can’t and that I would never subject my children to that, but when I get discouraged and depressed and things seem so, so dark, I find myself thinking that I might as well go back and give in. When I can’t stop his “voice” in my head (I was married for 26 years), I at times end up feeling like he as “won” and I just might as well give up because things will never change anyway.

      Thankfully I do have a very supportive church, especially my pastor and his wife and, interestingly enough, my pastor has been preaching through Exodus recently. You are right, there are so, so many awesome parallels for those of us who are leaving an abusive relationship in those passages of Scripture.

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I can really, really identify. {{{{hug}}}}

  15. Thanks for the validation that I was never able to get from the church. As if Pastor A discussing personal issues with my son wasn’t outrageous enough, there is more to the story. Pastor A required that I meet with him and an elder to discuss the abuse issues that I brought to the church. He refused either of my adult daughters coming with me, and would not hear their testimony on how abusive my husband actually was. He said that would cloud the issue.

    I thought that they were very harsh to me with the elder getting up close to my face and stating, “We don’t even know you,” in a shaming manner. Interrogation would be an accurate word to describe these sessions. When my daughters saw me returning from these meetings crying, they called the pastor and tried to reason with him, to no avail. He refused their input, but, it appears sought out the son with the behavioral issues to confer with! The final meeting was to be a conference call with my husband, but knowing that they had treated me so harshly several times before, I sensed danger in this, and refused to go.

    As Barb said, we had friends at the church and did not want to have to leave. Also it is so confusing to be in the midst of such a situation-a lot of lies and manipulation to sort through. I would never have believed that this leadership was so abusive; I had previously trusted them and thought that I was misreading the situation. I think that the fog of the domestic abuse was hard enough to navigate, and then to find that the church was just as bad, left me reeling. A Cry for Justice helped me to see abuse for what it is-evil, no matter who it comes from, and led me out of the fog.

    Recently, It came to my ears that the pastor at church A told one of his members that I was a “church-hopper.”

    • It can be REALLY hard to leave a church- especially when all of your relationships are centered around it. For a lot of people, church is more than the sum of the pastor’s teaching, so it is a real shame when the leadership makes it impossible to stay around those you care about deeply.

      Even the only family that stood behind me faded out of my life after I left the church because I just saw them less and less.

    • Anonymous

      On the testimony of two of more witnesses, a matter shall be considered true. The Bible speaks of this. Deut. 17:6 speaks of a matter in the death sentence of another, you must two or more witnesses. Even in Matthew 18, there are to be witnesses.

      This is why they don’t want to hear from your daughters. It would call them to account. However, my children did testify and it was ignored and others were told that the leadership had found no abuse in my home. That’s funny, that they didn’t want to follow the Bible when it came their turn!! The other people in leadership did not hear my or my children’s testimony. The decisions were made by a single person in leadership. Talk about dismissing God’s Word!

  16. As I See It Only

    OK friends, I need some advice: the abuser has struck again, through the courts. I have been ordered to pay him for gifts my children never received and for dinners out with his girl friend (because the children were with him). Any suggestions? Yes, his network has struck again and there is no justice. What to do?

    • Still Scared( but getting angry)

      ordered, through the courts…wow! I just wish I could get my ex-idiot to pay child support and past due ( paid by me) medical bills. No clue. What does your lawyer say?

    • Anonymous

      What?!? As for gifts the children never received, a gift is a gift and he should not be repaid for them. Make him provide the receipts for those gifts and then maybe you could find a way to have the children make affidavits that the gifts were never received by them. I don’t know their ages, so that may be sticky. You know, there is such a thing as purchasing a gift to “look good” and then just returning it! I wonder if there is anyway if you had the receipt for the gift, that the store could tell you if it had been returned. As for the dinners out, who’s idea was it? I would again ask for receipts, but would also make it a rule, no more dinner dates with the girlfriend, unless he agrees that he is paying for it. Why on earth, should you have to pay for him to take his children out to eat? This just makes no sense to me. If you have joint custody or full custody, you have a half or full say in everything, including where he is taking the children out to dinner and who is buying!

  17. Friend of the Oppressed

    AISIO, This evil of using a mother’s children to further abuse knows no bounds. I am so sorry for the continued abuse you are forced to endure. Proverbs 22:22, 23 says, “Do not rob the poor because he is poor, Or crush the afflicted at the gate; For the LORD will plead their case and take the life of those who rob them.” The Lord is mindful and sees your pain. I’m sorry I cannot give you any advice but pray the Lord will provide you wisdom and His justice for the solution.

    Persistent, your story is shocking, but unfortunately it is not uncommon. I know your pain and confusion all too well. I was almost utterly spiritually destroyed having been entrapped four years in a very spiritually abusive (I cannot even call it ‘c’hurch) group of people who tried to forbid us to leave their prison. They harassed and attempted to coerce us into meeting after meeting for months after we left. I felt as if these people had put a pillow over my spirit and were determined to suffocate it to death. My daughter (loves history) keeps reminding me that Religion has been used for centuries to oppress and control the masses, especially women. All of this abuse has caused her to be agnostic. God used this to lead me to begin studying what it was (abuse) that had affected me so profoundly so I could avoid future devastation. The internet is filled with accounts of deplorable destructive spiritual abuse that sickens one’s sensibilities.

    Desiring to return to Egypt, excellent insight.

    Last evening I found a very useful survey via an announcement I received from ARMS. (Abuse Recovery Ministry Services). A local church will be hosting “Domestic Violence and the Gospel” by speaker Steven R. Tracy, author of “Mending the Soul”, professor of theology and ethics at Phoenix Seminary. I have not read “Mending the Soul” but a couple of women in my ARMS group have and they highly recommend it.

    The following statistical data and quotation is taken from the article at this link:
    http://www.mendingthesoul.org/files/2011/12/callingevchurchtruth6-30rev.pdf
    Calling the Evangelical Church to Truth: Domestic Violence and the Gospel
    by Steven R. Tracy, Professor of theology and ethics Phoenix Seminary

    Over five thousand North American Protestant ministers were surveyed
    concerning their views on domestic violence (DV).
    80% had some pastoral ministry experience with family violence
    27% said that if a wife would begin to submit to her abusive husband
    God would honor her obedience and it would stop or God would give her grace
    to endure the beatings.
    20% of leaders surveyed said no amount of violence at the hands of an abusive
    husband would justify the wife leaving.
    [James and Phyllis Alsdurf, Battered into Submission: The Tragedy of Wife Abuse in the Christian Home (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1989), 153–58.]

    “Seemingly, marriage is more sacred than life itself. It is important to
    understand that the vast majority of abused Christian women believe in the sanctity of
    marriage, in fact, that is why they often endure years of abuse, don’t seek help, agonize
    over leaving a husband they love, and feel great shame that they must have somehow
    failed and deserve some of the abuse they suffer.
    They want the violence to end, not the marriage.”

    I posted this on my Facebook page today. Very curious to see what, if any responses come of it.

    I hope I am not overwhelming with the distribution of information, but one good thing my ball and chain says, “Knowledge is power” and I am finding a lot of good information on the internet like this article “Why Pastors Struggle With Confronting Domestic Violence” by John Shore: http://www.southerngospel.com/Family/Marriage/11650227/

    It is a blessing to have allies. Be courageous and stand firm in your convictions, my friends. The Lord is with us. If He is with us, who can be against us? The gates of hell shall not prevail!

    • Friend of Op, we recommend Steve Tracy’s book Mending the Soul.It does not deal in depth with domestic abuse, but on abuse in general and childhood sexual abuse in particular it is very good. His chapter on Forgiveness is the clearest teaching on forgiveness that I know of.

    • Here is the link to the ARMS event that has Steven Tracy speaking. For some reason I can’t copy the text. You have to scroll down a bit to find the listing. It is a free lunch on June 1st in Beaverton, Oregon, and I am thinking that Ps Crippen and I and others from his church will try to attend. I am going to be in Oregon at that time.

  18. As I See It Only

    Oh, he has the receipts all right. And they clearly show that he took multiple people out to dinner and gave gifts which they never received. The judge overlooked the obvious. You can’t fight a judge who overlooks the obvious, for that means that the system itself has been contaminated. My lawyer? She is quitting family law.

  19. modad

    What a shame that a house of shelter turned into a house of horrors. I’ve seen this abuse by Pastors( so called ) before, Just wrong!

    • Hello Modad, welcome to the blog.

      • Modad

        Great site Barbara and thanks for the welcome, my pleasure, indeed!
        This woman sounds as if she in the outback or rural area where little oversight is given.
        To me it sounds like a good ole boys club covering each others tails. Do these men also teach from the Koran? Or Sharia Law? What more was she to do?
        This to me is starting to sound like the Catholic Church years ago.
        I know there are many good PCA churches in the metro areas but it seems when when you get outside the city or suburbs you get there is is little or no oversight which will ultimately end in their own demise.
        What this woman has gone through is unacceptable..
        Seems these pastors are more like home wreckers than family healers
        They hold themselves accountable to no one nor church law.
        What an incredibly strong woman to have endured and is still trying to right this wrong, I pray for her and that justice will prevail.
        And thank you for your organization that exposes these hidden thing amongst all denominations,
        God Bless you all!

  20. As I See It Only

    Thank you my friends for your prayers and insights. I think the Lord is teaching me the truth of Matthew 5:39–do not resist an evil person. I take this to mean, ‘Do not take on an evil person head-to-head, for you will lose.’ Jesus’ wisdom was to expose the wickedness, while suffering through it. That is what I am going to try to do.

    • the truth of Matthew 5:39–do not resist an evil person. I take this to mean, ‘Do not take on an evil person head-to-head, for you will lose.’

      Thank you for that gem, AISIO. It doesn’t mean ‘let the evil person walk all over you; but it could well mean ‘don’t take them on head-to-head or you will lose; use more careful strategies to respond to their evil.’
      Or ‘Don’t waste all your energies trying to oppose them and correct them; recognize that they are hostile to all correction and resistant to the idea of making any effort to stop their evil ways, so roll sideways and let them bowl on to their own destruction.’

      • Friend of the Oppressed

        Thank you. I needed that also. Could be connected to Proverbs 26:4-5
        “Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you will also be like him.
        Answer a fool as his folly deserves, that he not be wise in his own eyes.”

  21. Carradee

    Matthew 18:15–17 has a clear pattern: you go to someone once in private; if they don’t repent, then once with a witness; if they don’t repent, then once to the church/assembly; if they don’t repent, then treat them as a pagan and tax collector. I’ve realized—after being “gracious” and repeating vs. 15 many times, then 16 more than once—that Scripture has good reason for that order. Scripture’s specific order for things was designed to protect victims, and in thinking I would show even more grace and love than necessary, I was only hurting myself and demonstrating pride (thinking I knew better than Scripture).

    Per Romans 12:18, we are only responsible to live at peace with others insofar as we can effect that peace. (Note the verb “effect” ≠ “affect”. 🙂 )

    If someone’s willing to repent, then they’ll do so when approached. Repeating any part of the cycle is, in fact, enabling the abuser to continue.

    (Also worth noting: the word “the church” is ekklésia, which means the church body, not merely the church government. (See that link for its meaning in some lexicons and for other verses where the word appears.)

    I personally have reached the point of v. 17, and my family and their church’s governing body (who, thanks to a screwup, is where my official membership still is) is insisting I have no interest in reconciliation or in applying v. 15–16—even after I point out directly that the prerequisites for reconciliation haven’t been met. (It’s been a “fun” situation. I’m good enough at reading people that I predicted this outcome, so that helps emotionally, but I’m still disappointed. “Reconciliation” has been treated as a be-all, end-all, without the prerequisites [like forgiveness] even being asked about, turning reconciliation into a nebulously defined idol. Not that they see or admit that, of course.)

    This is all entirely aside from the fact that, per Luke 17:3, forgiveness is only required of us if the rebuked party repents. And we’re only commanded to love our enemies, not to forgive them (ref. Matthew 5:44).

    It may be pertinent that my own experiences have been with OPC/PCA. (They’re technically different, but they’re so closely related that they trade pastors and members a lot.) It’s possible to find support in the PCA, but the politics involved mean it can be personally and professionally risky for a church officer to side with the victim. Which is wrong.

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