Review of “Sexual Issues” – A Really Bad Book for Pastoral Training
***NOTE: THIS POST CONTAINS TRIGGERS***
ACFJ received the following input from Dallas Theological Seminary today. We will put their comment here at the head of this post which originally maintained that the book reviewed here is being used at DTS in pastoral counseling classes. John Dyer of DTS informs us that this is not correct:
Dallas Theological Seminary (DTS) would like to thank this blog and its authors for bringing up such an important issue and for running a blog that covers the important topic of abuse.
We are also glad to report that claims made in this post are inaccurate.
The stated book, “Sexual Issues” by Wahking and Zimmerman is not a required, recommended, or endorsed text at Dallas Theological Seminary. Although the book is out of print, it is available at our library along with many other books that DTS would neither endorse nor recommend. In the MA in Biblical Counseling program at Dallas Theological Seminary (Master of Arts in Biblical Counseling) students are correctly taught how to report abuse and the ethical and legal guidelines they must follow.
In the future, if you have questions about DTS or would like to verify the contents of our programs, please contact the Office of the President or the Executive Director of Communications any time. You can also peruse course syllabi at: DTS Course Schedule [Internet Archive link]. Finally, if you are interested, our podcast on cultural issues recently addressed the important topic of abuse: Transcript of the podcast [Internet Archive link]
Executive Director of Communications and Educational Technology
Dallas Theological Seminary
This manual seems to be written to less mature pastors who are not experienced counseling married couples who are having sexual problems. Throughout the book there is encouragement for young pastors who may find themselves sexually excited by hearing people describe their problems. (I think this is a sign that someone is not mature enough to be a counselor. Full Stop.)
But the focus of this review is Chapter 9: Strategic Pastoral Counseling with Survivors of Sexual Abuse. When discussing cases of child molestation and incest, here is what the authors recommend so that “breaking up the family” and “scandal” might be avoided:
Sometimes there are alternatives, though they are very difficult in terms of the Christian ethic. You may want to consider talking privately with the perpetrator, and if he or she confesses and commits to not being abusive again and enters professional counseling immediately, you may commit yourself to not reporting the abuse for now while maintaining close contact with the person’s therapist. You can make it clear that any hint of further abuse means that you will most certainly file a report.
First of all: this is illegal in most states [Internet Archive link]. The authors fully admit that this is probably breaking the law, but they nevertheless recommend this course of action to avoid “scandal” and family break-up. The authors are completely outside of truth, justice, and protecting the defenseless in this chapter. Second: the only appropriate response from a pastor who discovers child abuse within their church body is to file a report with the civil authorities and to act for the protection of the children, no matter what the personal cost may be. Jeff Crippen has personal experience with this type of scenario and he can testify that a weakened or conciliatory response (even at the behest of the victims’ family) only destroys people further down the road. Pastors need to learn how to respond correctly to abuse, and they need to understand the courage this requires.
(As an aside, I have also recently finished the book The Socially Skilled Child Molester: Distinguishing the Guilty from the Falsely Accused. [*Affiliate link] This book should be required reading for anyone in pastoral ministry as well as all parents. It highlights how dangerously foolish the authors have been in Sexual Issues, since those who get caught grooming a child for sex are almost certainly going to do it again, and they are devilishly cunning at getting away with it.)
The authors continue in Chapter 9 with a sample counseling session between a husband “Clark” and his wife “Brenda”, where Brenda has confessed that Clark has choked her, held her down, and raped her. The authors make sure that the counseling session doesn’t “beat up on the husband too much” (my paraphrasing) and by the end of it, the wife has agreed to cook her husband a meal that he really enjoys. I’m not going to go into too much detail here because I am afraid that it will be far too triggering for the survivors reading this blog.
I will end this with another quote from page 168:
Commentary: The pastor helped these two troubled people ventilate their anger without letting them escalate to the level of rage. He monitored his own hostile reaction to Clark and kept that from intruding on his counseling relationship. By the middle of the session he did not feel hostile to Clark. Surprisingly, Clark agreed to make some changes. The pastor then wisely invited Brenda to make some changes. She needs to make changes for her own well-being and by both of them agreeing to make changes, Clark has not become the “identified patient” or the one to be blamed. At the beginning of this session there was considerable evidence that these two people would require referral to a marriage counselor and that there might be little hope that they could remain married even after that work. By the end of the session there was evidence that Clark was willing to change and Brenda was willing to work with him.
The above quote should be a parody! It is a literal textbook example of how a pastor becomes an ally of an abuser; how a pastor helps the abuser shift some of the blame onto the victim; how marriage counseling is ineffective in cases like this; how the victim is guilted into trying to further please her rapist; how the abuser easily fools the pastor; how the pastor is lulled into ignoring the Holy Spirit’s outrage; how the appropriate resources are never called upon; and how the appropriate scriptures are not brought to bear on these situations.
A pastor in the above scenario may also be held liable if rape and assaults are reported to him and he does not report it. However in some states he does not have to report this abuse if children are not involved (i.e. children are not witnessing the assaults). From another perspective, however, should we need to (as God’s agents here on earth) be forced into protecting the weaker vessels by the civil authorities? Do we depend on the threat of legal action to do what is right? Would we never report assault to the police unless there was some threat to ourselves? If the world clearly recognizes these things as evil and unacceptable, how much more so should we?
This book is a monstrous piece of garbage and I would take it out back and blast it with my shotgun, but it’s frankly too cold for that today and I can’t be bothered to put on my boots. I implore the seminaries to thoroughly review their counseling texts. At a minimum.
Jeff Crippen & Barbara Roberts’ books should be on the list of required reading at seminaries. Perhaps if we keep sounding the alarm, God’s men will answer.