A Cry For Justice

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

Pt 3. CCEF’s ‘Counseling Abusive Marriages’ course — bread mixed with stones?

In Part 3 (the final) of this series on CCEF’s course ‘Counseling Abusive Marriages,’ we are looking at how the course seems to envisage churches working in conjunction with counselors to minister in domestic abuse situations, and whether they mention church discipline for abusers and divorce for victims. We will also be looking at the reading list for the course. Lastly, I’ll summarize my overall thoughts about the course.
[Go to Part 1 of this series; Part 2 of this series.]

In Darby Strickland’s CCEF’s blog interview she said:

Students will also learn how to utilize the church community to support the counseling process. The church has resources that one counselor cannot offer, so if they work together there is greater potential for true and lasting change. I will provide specifics on both how a counselor can work closely with a church leader and how a pastor or other church leader can coordinate care with a counselor. Excuse me while, as a canary in the coal mine, I cringe, give a little soft shriek, and wait for my flesh-crawling to subside. This is another red flag for us.

Okay, let me explain. Darby Strickland and CCEF are running this course because they believe that many counselors need training in how to counsel abusive marriages. So if many counselors need such training, why on earth is it safe to assume that church leaders and lay church folk have enough understanding of domestic abuse to assist in caring for the abuser and the oppressed victim?

If one reads even a fraction of the posts and threads on the A Cry For Justice blog, one will see countless stories in which our readers, the survivors who come here, have been mistreated by folk in their churches, both leaders and ordinary congregational members. Do not assume for one moment that the church is a safe and happy place for most victims of abuse to be in, let alone a safe and supportive place for them to disclose. And do not assume for one moment that the church leaders and congregation will be wise enough to recognize and resist the lying and manipulation of the abuser, especially when the abuser is actively out to recruit allies and discredit his victim because she has just left him or had him put out of the home thanks to police intervention.

Destructive dynamics are prevalent in marriages—even in Christian ones. Again, Darby Strickland/CCEF are implying that the abuser can be a Christian, and an abuser who claims to be a Christian is to be treated as a Christian. We disagree. These situations are complex and can become overwhelming very fast. I submit these situations would be a lot less complex and overwhelming if churches would energetically deliver the kind of justice we are calling for at this blog. Unknowingly, churches and counselors can do harm in these situations if they do not recognize that abuse is occurring and have knowledge about how to intervene. That’s true! So why is Darby so optimistic about the the idea of “utilizing the church community to support the counseling process”? Methinks there is a big chasm between the cup and the lip.

Navigating care for a couple in this situation takes a tremendous amount of wisdom. Hang on! “Care for a couple”? This suggests that CCEF is aiming to keep the couple together. No surprises there, having seen their take on it so far. There is nothing in the course description or blog post about Separation. Or Divorce. Does CCEF avoid mentioning divorce because it’s too hot a potato? Would CCEF not get any registrants for the course if they mentioned the D word? And if the course is going to endorse excommunication for the abuser and divorce for the victim, they need to say so publicly and most explicitly, so victims can have more confidence in CCEF. This course will help build that wisdom. I’m sorry to say, but on the basis of what I’ve read so far, I doubt it will.

Back to the course description:

About the Professor

Darby Strickland

[I’ve removed her pic from this transcript; you can see it at CCEF]

Darby is a counselor at CCEF. She has a B.S. in Psychology from the University of Chicago and a Masters of Divinity degree, Counseling Emphasis, from Westminster Theological Seminary. Darby has been counseling at CCEF for over 10 years. In addition to her work at CCEF, she also counsels at her local church, where she runs a support group for women in abusive marriages. I’m glad to hear this, Darby! Would you like to start following our blog, if you don’t do so already, so that you can learn from an even wider pool of survivors? Darby has over 15 years of ministry, teaching, and counseling experience. She is married to John, and they have three children. Areas of specialization include marriage, abuse, anxiety, family issues (including children with developmental delays and disabilities), and depression.

Required Books

Why Does He Do That? by Lundy Brancroft EXCELLENT! We are very very glad they have this first on the list!

Is It My Fault? by Lindsay A. and Justin S. Holcomb Reasonably good, but could be better. The Holcombs tell the victim it is not her fault; they put safety first; they encourage victims to leave; they say (in passing, in parentheses, sigh) that they believe divorce is an option in abusive relationships; and their chapter on the Biblical principle of fleeing abuse is excellent. But they sometimes say things that subtly slight victims (it’s probably inadvertent, but still disappointing); they fail to discuss how abusers recruit allies in the the church; and they barely touch on how Christians are enabling abusers. I’m publishing a review of this book as soon as I can get it completed.

I would have liked CCEF to have included the book A Cry For Justice on their list as it would have supplied some of the pieces that are missing in the Holcombs’ book. Amazon Affiliate link

Sexual Abuse in Marriage by D. Anne Pierce (ebook) Very good! I recommended this book some time ago. We have it on our Resources list, and the author has commented on our blog; here are her comments, I’ve put the most informative ones first:– 1, 2, 3, 45, 6, 7, 8, 9. I’m really glad CCEF are giving this book publicity and recommending it. I believe it needs to be read much more widely than it has been. I also recommend that pastors, counselors and missionary organizations read D. Anne’s comments that I’ve just given here, as they illustrate how badly churches can handle domestic abuse cases very badly.

Emotional Abuse: Silent Killer of a Marriage by Austin James uh oh. Not on our list of recommended resources. We haven’t reviewed it yet, but have a look at what Denise M Libby said about it in her one star review on Amazon:

I could barely get through this book. The deeper I got the more I shook my head. I kept thinking throughout, more manipulation, more playing the victim, more blaming the partner etc… Although he describes how he used emotional/verbal abuse on his family for years, and owns up to that, I couldn’t help but wonder why it took his wife asking for a divorce, before he saw how awful his behavior truly was. He uses specific instances of his abuse in this book, which says to me he knew exactly what he was doing, at the time he was doing it, and was only sorry after his wife asked for a divorce.
This book, in my opinion, reads like a manipulative way to “win” back his wife, and reads like it was written solely for her. As his abuse was having no effect on her and he wasn’t getting his own way all the time, it seems to me that he just changed tactics. I felt that he wrote this book as a manipulative way to “win”. He would be one up and she would be one down. He took every chance he could find to let the reader know that even though he had done such hard, soul searching work on himself, she just could never find a way to give him a second chance. He wins, she loses.
I hope that the author really did change, and did all the work necessary to stop being abusive, but I have my doubts. Seems he blamed most everyone from his wife, his mother (especially his mother) to his short stint in the military. This was not a book to help anyone who is in an abusive relationship, nor someone who is an abuser. It is a thinly veiled attempt to guilt his former wife into coming back to him, in my opinion. All in all…sometimes actions speak louder than words and he should have left this book unwritten.

UPDATE: we have now published a one-star review of Austin James’s book; click here to read this review.

And from Freedom’s one star review:

Austin James claims to have been a completely changed man after just a few weeks following his wife’s request for a divorce. That type of change would be nothing short of a miracle. I do believe miracles can happen, however, I doubt that this author experienced said miracle. For one, he continues throughout the book (OVER AND OVER) to harp on the fact that his ex-wife was abused as a child. HUM….? He also says he always felt it was his job to “protect” his wife. Yet he has no problem abusing his wife yet again as he violates her personal privacy. Perhaps to let any would be suitor know she is indeed damaged goods. He also benefits financially from inflicting this abuse on her once again by any profits he may gain from the book. If he was in fact protecting his ex-wife he would protect her privacy at all cost. Therefore, his abuse of his ex-wife continues. (How masterfully manipulative!) He is an admitted liar and self-proclaimed master manipulator. One has to question if his wife was ever abused by anyone before she met him. Either way he says whatever will serve his own agenda.

The book also seems to pitch a recovery program over and over. Plus the author admits to manipulating self-help books and programs for his own gain and to further his abuse of his family. The last 2/3 of the book really seem more like padding to make the book seem longer than it is.

In Conclusion

It seems to me, from the information CCEF has publicised about this course, that they are:

  • wanting to address domestic abuse, but ignorant of how much more they need to learn
  • foolishly starting from the default that abusers are Christians merely because they claim to be Christians
  • offering dubious interpretations of scripture to justify their position
  • failing to grasp basic biblical teaching about oppressors and fools, and therefore being unwisely optimistic about the likelihood that abusers will change (will stop abusing)
  • using the wrong paradigm for counseling domestic abuse
  • ignorant of the dangers of sin levelling
  • insensitive (at the very least) to how their use of language can be harmful to victims and empowering for abusers
  • naive (at the very least) about how much the church is hurting victims of abuse and enabling abusers
  • failing to make strong public statements about biblical discipline for the abuser, and the victim’s liberty to divorce the abuser
  • failing to show nearly enough outrage about what is happening re domestic abuse in the church

There may be some bread here from CCEF, but there is certainly strong evidence that there are stones mixed in that have all the potential of breaking the teeth of victims.

Final Note: since this series started, I have emailed Darby Strickland encouraging her to read the series and I’ve given CCEF the same message as a p.m. via their FB page. At the time of writing this final note (7.30pm Jan 1st USA Pacific time, the time this blog is calibrated for) I have not heard anything back from Darby or CCEF.

I do hope that even if they elect not to comment here, they will read the series and maybe use it to pick out some of the stones from their bread offering. 🙂

Posts in this series

Part 1: Pt 1. CCEF’s ‘Counseling Abusive Marriages’ course — bread mixed with stones?

Part 2: Pt 2. CCEF’s ‘Counseling Abusive Marriages’ course — bread mixed with stones?

Part 3: Is this post.


  1. Brenda R

    Emotional Abuse: Silent Killer of a Marriage. I have a hard time understanding how this book was published. As far as I am concerned it is probably the biggest abuse tactic this man put on his wife. Public humiliation. One last, let’s feel sorry for the abuser who claims to have changed. If he had truly changed, perhaps his wife could publicly say that it can happen, but that is not what happened here and has no place in a course on counseling domestic abuse unless it is to point out how this man manipulates even after his wife has left him.

    My X still claims to have changed yet just last week used some of his more subtle tactics in a public restaurant. Thankfully, I have not heard from him since and the restaurant has very few people in it at the time. It is still all about him and look at how sweet he is. Bleck!!!!

    Darby may have experience counseling in these areas, but is it good counsel. I have to wonder how much damage she has done. This course is quite a few pieces shy of a complete puzzle and although some of the resources used are good ones, it could be better and without a fee. It is a money grabber, as many other things are. Focus on the victim and abuser separately would be a good start in my mind. Not keep the marriage together at all costs. As you said, they haven’t addressed the D word at all. If they really felt this was a Godly option, why do they not stand behind it and say so publicly. Is that decision going to be made as the course goes on and they see how the people paying for it feel about the subject? A lot of unknowns. I still feel like this could turn out some very damaging counseling for victims.

  2. Jeff Crippen

    Thank you for all of your hard work in putting this important series together, Barbara. Whistleblowing on evil is never popular. And that is what this business of exposing abusers in the church is – whistleblowing on evil. CCEF, it appears to me, is trying to address abuse without whistleblowing. That is to say, there is no expressed sense of outrage by them at what has been happening and what continues to be happening to abuse victims in churches and at the hands of their “christian” abusers. There is just way too much “glad-handing” and “backslapping” going on here. When there is sin and evil and injustice in the visible church, God’s way is to send His spokesmen to expose it and to call for unqualified repentance. And when this evil consists of the abuse of the widow, orphan, and defenseless, God’s voice is loud and threatening and He plays no favorites.

  3. IamMyBeloved's

    Might I apologize, before I even say what I am about to say – but this truly sounds like CCEF is attempting to be the “hero” who figures out how to keep abusers and their victims together in a lifelong marriage. Why? Because no one else has been able to figure out how to do that, yet. If that is not their focus, then they have my apologies. I do wonder how they will use the book written by an abuser. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if they used it to point out how abusers still abuse and think they have transformed? Sounds like he is still performing his abuse, just not on his ex-wife. It is now on the readers.

    As you say, Barb, I am very disappointed that they believe abusers can be Christians. This is just the one huge red flag I look for anymore. If anyone is teaching you can still be and live in the “old” when the “new” has come, then I just turn away from it. It is a false gospel to me, and I am just not interested in hearing about how I can go around and beat up and abuse other people if I want to, and still claim to be in God’s Kingdom. Ridiculous. The Bible teaches that we are not to listen to anyone who preaches and teaches a false gospel – not even for an hour.

    I am sorry, but this thing appears to just be loaded with arrogance and false knowledge or should I say “fake knowledge”. It is like experimental treatments for abuse. It is a train wreck a coming and I cannot even imagine the number of victims that will be re-victimized – once again – through people who are ignorant of abuse, and yet believe they hold the knowledge to try to “fix” the abuse, abuser and victim. So very sad. I hope we can warn enough people before this mess starts. It is a very bad sign, that your messages have not been responded to.

    • Ann

      Yes. When you hear let’s fix the marriage instead of repentance being addressed, RUN!

  4. Barnabasintraining

    Students will also learn how to utilize the church community to support the counseling process. The church has resources that one counselor cannot offer, so if they work together there is greater potential for true and lasting change. I will provide specifics on both how a counselor can work closely with a church leader and how a pastor or other church leader can coordinate care with a counselor.

    Having seen first hand how this fleshes out in the real world, this makes me really jittery and edgy. Rapid, shallow breathing…the whole 9 yards. What is meant by “support the counseling process” is the thing. And as other have already said, it does not sound like the “counseling process” includes — let alone focuses on — the victim’s rights to leave. Therefore, what is really being “supported” here? I fear, as is too often the case, the real focus of “the counseling process” is to keep the marriage (so called) intact, and that by applying the kinds of pressures and persecutions (yes I did just say persecutions) to the victim that is expected to produce the desired effect, which basically can be summed up as the persecuted abuse victim’s tortured (yes I did just say tortured) confession that the marriage is more important than she is and more important than the children are, and if she and/or the children must die to keep from divorcing, then that must be God’s will.

    Dear CCEF,
    If my understanding, which is based on first hand experience, is incorrect, please amend your language accordingly. Thank you.

  5. A regular reader of this blog has contacted me by email, saying she found a review of Austin James’ book by StephanieBitByBit [Internet Archive link].

    Her email prompted me to search the web for more info about Austin James. I read every single review of his book on Amazon but I couldn’t glean a lot more about the book from those reviews. However, I have found an interview of Austin James, by Chuck Gallagher [Internet Archive link]. In the interview, James says:

    Speaking about my own situation, following my divorce, I gave everything to the Lord to heal and repair Chuck. I became aware of my abuse and transformed into a new man for the last 7 months of our marriage, but my wife lost trust in the changes she saw in me – she didn’t think they were real. However, I saw a great capacity in my wife to forgive me during our 24 year marriage.

    For the moment, I will make no comment on that quote. I’m still reading the interview.

  6. Here is my last quote from Chuck Gallagher’s interview with Austin James.

    Chuck Gallagher: You talk about codependency – share how you see codependency manifest and what can someone in a codependent relationship do to awaken to that relationship challenge?

    Austin James: It’s important for your readers to understand as I answer this, I do not buy into the notion that a victim of abuse somehow ‘enables’ the abuse by their behavior. An abuser abuses because they are broken – nothing a victim did “turned on” the abuse and nothing they do will stop it.

    In general terms, a codependent is relying on someone else for his or her happiness. Their thinking and focus centers around the other person and they begin to react to that person’s external cues rather than their own internal cues. Normally, a codependent has a hard time with setting personal boundaries. Emotional abuse starts subtly and progresses to full-blown control and manipulation over time. It’s these subtle progressions that a codependent has a hard time recognizing as their boundaries become more and more transparent.

    If someone reading this interview or my book notices in their mate any of the patterns of abuse on a consistent basis, an alarm needs to go off. More than likely, they are in or are headed for an abusive relationship. The mere fact they were unaware of the situation until an external cue (this interview) was presented to them is hopefully a wakeup call to what is going on in their own life.

    Here’s a fact – the abuse will NOT go away on its own. If one mate thinks they need to ‘try harder’, or ‘do more things right’, or ‘love a little more’, they run the risk of slowly being suffocated in the quicksand of abuse at the hands of their soul-sucking mate.

    I would suggest this person immediately get professional help if they have the option, or at least get some good books on codependency and setting boundaries. Chances are, something happened in their own childhood that caused codependency roots to grow. The only way for them to heal is to get at those childhood roots and remove them.

    I don’t think I need comment on this much except to say that it bothers me that Austin James is telling victims of abuse what to do, and is making the assumption that all victims are co-dependent. From what I have read, some victims of abuse identify with the term ‘codependent’ and say that they were helped by reading a book or books about co-dependency. But by not means do all victims say this; and many victims find it a pejorative term.

    Here is our tag for Codependency. We do not endorse the use of the term for victims of domestic abuse.

  7. In the comments on Chuck Gallagher’s interview with Austin James, Austin responds to a comment from a woman called Amy who had outlined the domestic abuse she has suffered. He says (boldface emphasis added by me):

    there is a book that I highly recommend – “Prison to Praise” (it’s on Amazon) for you and your situation (and faith). It’s a pocket book and a short read, but one of only two books (besides THE BOOK) that I can say changed my walk w/Christ and therefore my life. I am still working on getting it’s principles from my head and into my heart but it WILL happen if I yield and trust.

    I would actually recommend this book ahead of my own if finances are tight.

    It strikes me that Austin James may (I’m not saying I know this for sure) be one of those people who are trying to be a Christian by his own efforts.

  8. Ellie

    I called a friend once when I was considering reconciling with X. She asked, “Are you codependent?” Well, I didn’t know much about that, but I looked it up. I found some info about it and thought that I do several of the things on the site like making excuses for X’s bad actions and trying to manage things so he’ll be happy and so on. I read a bit, discussed it with my trauma therapist and that was the end of it. Seeing the actions described helped me to see that I was responding to pattern behavior with pattern behavior that WOULD NOT HELP and I was free of it. I don’t make excuses for him anymore. He doesn’t need me to manage his life so that he can be happy. He needs to surrender to Christ. Without surrender, he’ll never be happy. And I am not in control of any of that.

    • making excuses for X’s bad actions and trying to manage things so he’ll be happy and so on.

      That illustrates one reason why the ‘co-dependency’ paradigm is problematic – and easily becomes another way of denigrating the victim.
      Making excuses for someone’s bad actions — is that not often thought of as a Christian virtue? first cousin to the saintly quality of being long-suffering? And is it not a good for us to make allowances for someone’s bad actions? Is that not erring on the side of lavish and generous love? Is that not what so many Christian marriage books tell us to do?

      And all the Christian marriage books tell us (wives) to try to manage things so he’ll be happy . But then all of a sudden when we read about so called co-dependency, we get told that those things are Not Good things to do. It is very confusing to the newbie who is just waking up out of abuse.

      • Ellie

        Making excuses for someone’s bad actions — is that not often thought of as a Christian virtue?

        I think it goes along with the “seeking to understand rather than to be understood” line that we get handed. We should seek to understand, but not to excuse. Now I seek to understand what a person or other entity (corporation, website, advertisement) is trying to communicate, why, and how. What do they have to gain? Why do they want that? Are they looking for power, sympathy (and power to do what they want), money, help, encouragement, prayer? What do they want? Are they using coercive techniques to get it? Don’t coerce me. Have a good enough ___ that I’ll want it without you telling me I need it, ought to have it, am stupid for passing it by, am a heartless shrew if I don’t give in, etc.

        I would love to be understood. And I have found wonderful friends who do understand. If someone doesn’t, they don’t want to and I cannot entice them to. So I move on.

        I seek to understand whether someone is seeking control and I put up boundaries to ensure that I am seeking to be controlled by the Holy Spirit instead of manipulators. I can seek to understand. Sometimes I might understand that the pity play I am being sold is a power play and I reject it now where I would have excused it before.

        This is one reason why it’s important for ACFJ and other advocates to clearly state that the targets’ responsibility is NOT the survival of the marriage or the eternal condition of an abuser’s soul who is “only hurting because he is hurt.”

        …every man must look after his own soul; you can’t lay it down at another man’s door like a foundling and expect him to take care of it…

        Sewell, Anna (2006-01-16). Black Beauty (pp. 152-154). Public Domain Books. Kindle Edition.

        Don’t lay the abusers’ souls at our doorstep. If the abuser wants to be saved, let him seek Christ, not power over his target.

      • Thanks Ellie! good teaching 🙂

      • selah

        Precisely. “And all the Christian marriage books tell us (wives) to try to manage things so he’ll be happy”. Those books made me an expert co-dependent enabler. Awaking out of the fog, those books were tossed in the trash. I refused to even put them in a bag to the thrift store or put them out on a yard sale table. Co-dependent no more.

      • Jeff Crippen

        Selah – “an expert co-dependent enabler.” That nails it. Thanks for such a clear and concise definition of the thing. I can see you out back chucking those books in the trash!!

    • standsfortruth

      Unless CCEF considers testimonies from true victims of this type of abuse, they won’t understand the profound effects on the family dynamics that cause the children to be negatively psychologically affected in life.
      They will not have the complete picture of why these abusive marriages could actually have Godly restorative value if “dissolved” rather than continued.
      This restoration resulting in encouraging dissolving of the abusive marriage would include how the affected spouse with her children could then be able to heal and recover in an environment free from the oppressor, to ultimately achieve a peaceful and loving lifestyle that honors God.
      Thus no longer perpetuating the “abusive generational cycle” that tends to go along with keeping any abusive marriage together.

  9. Brenda R

    Thank you Barbara for pushing through what you could dig up about Austin James book. You had to be reading and typing like a woman on a mission. I found his answers in the interview nonchalant and unrepentant. Oh yah, to do you still feel abusive in nature. (my paraphrasing) That does not sound like a truly repentant man. It sounds shallow in nature and I don’t buy into what he is saying.

    I think that Stephaniebitbybit does not have enough experience in abuse to give a 2 thumbs up evaluation of this book. I am glad that she was able to be aware of what her marriage was going to be and the abuse she was in and left early. I wish that the rest of us were able to do that before decades went by. I do not take her evaluation seriously. I know that many of us were abused while being children. We did not grow up to be abusers, child molesters or any such thing. Abusing is a choice, just as not abusing is a choice. We do not have to allow our child hood to cause us to hurt those that we are suppose to love.

    If CCEF is going to use this book as part of its curriculum, they also need to allow real life victims/targets to tell their stories as well. This could make a difference in the way abuse is looked at.

    • Still Reforming

      Brenda, You wrote: ” they also need to allow real life victims / targets to tell their stories as well.”

      I have long thought this very thing – that a book of short excerpts about real life stories of this kind of Jekyll-Hyde abuse pattern that we targets have lived – could be helpful.

      • Brenda R

        SR, I wonder if a book like that would have woken me up sooner. If it would give a wake up call to others who need to have the fog lifted, I am all for it and would gladly add to the book.

      • Okay SR! Can you collect the stories and be the editor?

        We can siphon the stories thru to you. If you want to run this project, contact TWBTC and tell her how you’d like to arrange it. We can publish a guest post from you inviting survivors to contribute their stories, and giving guidelines (e.g. maybe the word length of stories would need to be limited). And tell TWBTC how you would like survivors to contact you, either by a direct email address or via us.

        It could be published by you directly on Amazon, or on Lulu or one of those other self-publishing platforms. I think the Amazon way is the cheapest, but it only produces e-books, not hard copies.

      • Still Reforming

        Hey, Barbara, I am so thankful that you suggested moving on this possible compilation of stories. I will indeed contact TWBTC to coordinate as you suggest. I have a degree in journalism and most of my professional life was spent in editorial functions (communications departments, public relations, marketing, etc). So this would be a way that I could help get the word out and let those with a voice tell their own stories together in one place. May the Lord give me what’s needed to accurately and justly compile the accounts from among His beloved.

        Today was very busy for me [details omitted — Eds,] but I will contact TWBTC this week to get this rolling. If there are personal accounts that anyone wants to tell to be heard together in one place, let’s DO THIS! Thanks Barbara!

        I’ll be in touch, TWBTC.

    • Still Reforming

      I’d be happy to add to the book as well – and I imagine many here would to give their voices, well, a voice.

      As I ponder and look back on the years I “enabled” without realizing it – before I came across this website which helped to validate what I was living (and still am, though not under the same roof), well, I can’t help but think about my church (where incidentally, the abuser returned so I and my child left) and how many people were aware of the behavior yet chose to look the other way – in the name of “love.” I can’t tell you how many times I heard my pastor tell me – in response to my telling him incidents in the home – “Well, I don’t know because I wasn’t there.” (He wasn’t there when the Bible was written either, but he believes – or says he does – those accounts.)

      Their naivete makes me wonder how they would have responded to Jesus’ overturning the tables at the temple. Might they have said, “Jesus, look at the mess you made. Now clean this up. That was really unChristlike and you should forgive those men abusing their positions, charging money for sacrifice in God’s house. I mean, really. That was very unloving. How will these men ever come to you if you’re not going to forgive them?”

      • Brenda R

        (He wasn’t there when the Bible was written either, but he believes – or says he does – those accounts.) That would have been a good response. I’m thinking Jesus would not have a good response to His not acting Christlike at turning over the tables. He may have thrown a few in the direction of the accuser.

      • Still Reforming

        Brenda – Yes indeed. Look at the language Christ uses against those in power in the temple and the burdens they laid on the shoulders of the people. Christ didn’t speak to them as pastors and church leaders would have us speak with our husbands. Moreover, what do these pastors think about imprecatory prayers which are dappled throughout the Psalms? Methinks they dismiss them…. if they consider them at all. Granted, I don’t pray them over my abuser, but my child and I no longer pray for him at all. We don’t wish him ill, but we tend to not think much of him period. I’m sure that would rankle a few in church leadership. And we’re considered to be the bad Christians who don’t get so much as a call or text from those alongside whom we served for years, whereas the abuser sits comfortably in the pews each Sunday now…. laughing at them all.

  10. Still Reforming

    Great work, Barbara! From your lips to CCEF’s ears. If they’re really interested in Biblical counseling, they will consider justice as part of the same coin as mercy – One doesn’t have forgiveness without repentance. My child and I have been having long talks about this lately. I’m glad that you respectfully contacted Strickland and CCEF, and I hope that in the same spirit of working toward true Biblical counseling they will – at the very least – respond to you. (And if they don’t respond, that in itself is an answer letting you/us know where they stand.)

  11. Round*Two

    This may be a little off subject, but my husband believes we can reconcile when I figure out what my bondage is. Something I have carried around my whole adult life, he says. And of course, he will have to KNOW in his spirit, (that that bondage has been broken), and that I have changed… I do not believe he wants to reconcile… he says he has not interest in another partner… yeah, right. I’m sure he’s been fishing! As for myself, I think I figured out what my ‘bondage’ is! 🙂

    • my husband believes we can reconcile when I figure out what my bondage is

      — so he makes out that you are the one with the character defect that is blighting the marriage. And according to him it’s something you’ve carried round your whole adult life . . . so it couldn’t be HIM, it’s something intrinsic to you. So he’s not-so-subtly casting aspersions on you, and exonerating himself.

      For myself, I certainly had some fairly serious character defects when I entered into relationship with man who became my first husband — who turned out to be an abuser. And I admitted those defects in the course of the marriage and make efforts to correct them. But my husband smirked about the fact that I had done some wrong things (both before I met him, and towards him at times) and used that to make it all my fault and to reject the idea that he had major defects too, defects which of course he declined to work on or take responsibility for. . .

  12. John Felser

    Thanks for the articles. My wife and I have benefitted greatly from Jeff’s sermon series and the book. We also have been taking and benefitting greatly from Darby’s course, which has one more week to run. Many of your assumptions about the course are very erroneous, and I do need to ask if you tried to talk to her before you posted this series. For instance, the Austin James book was certainly seen as problematic, and looking at it critically was part of the course. Also, the course has offered much opportunity to discuss the grievous failures of churches in this area, as well as how some are trying to do better by victims. And there is no flattening out of blame between abusor and victim in the course – abuse is seen as a horrible evil.. Darby has been courageous to teach this course, and it saddens me that you would make such broad, negative assumptions based on so little input. and then be so patronizing and insulting in your contact to her.

    • Jeff Crippen

      John – we are glad you are benefiting from the course. Thank you for your feedback. If the course is in fact on target and teaching truth about abuse, then it is in contrast to the CCEF description of the course that we critiqued. We believe that our criticisms of the course, as CCEF represented it in their description, are well-founded. We would very much have liked to hear from CCEF something like, “You know, we did not do a good job writing the course description. Your concerns are valid, and we intend to correct the course description in light of the points you have made.” But we have heard nothing. The fact is that the course description was very poorly done and contained incorrect statements which we warned people about.

    • 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.


      Hi John, I’m glad you’ve found Jeff’s book and sermon series helpful.

      To answer you question: No, we didn’t contact Darby before we published this series. If you want to know why we didn’t, we’d be happy to explain.

      I’m glad to hear that in the course, Austin James’s book was seen as problematic and looked at critically. I’m also glad to hear that the course has given opportunity to discuss the failures of churches in this area. And that in your perception it didn’t flatten out blame between abuser and victim. Of course, your perception, and what ours would have been had we attended the course, might not be identical!

      I’m wondering whether divorce for abuse was discussed in the course and if so, what line Darby and CCEF took on it.

      It’s all very well to accuse us of being patronizing and insulting to Darby. But have you considered how disappointing, deflating, patronizing and potentially insulting Darby / CCEF’s published words about the course were/are to victims?

      Can I make a suggestion? Instead of questioning us, maybe you ought to be questioning Darby and CCEF about why their published material about the course didn’t state a lot more strongly that the church has made grievous failures in regards to domestic abuse issue. And maybe you ought to be asking Darby why she used language in the interview and the course description which gave victims and their advocates so much cause for concern. And why the published material didn’t mention divorce?

      Here’s another question for you to ponder: Why is it so often inferred that the victims and their stalwart advocates ought to apologize and retract and ‘make nice’ — while most Christian academics, counselors and leaders never feel they have to apologize or retract or re-think their approach to the victims? Why is it okay for them to ignore the likes of us?

      Why don’t you set a new pattern here, John, and go back and ask Darby and CCEF some tough questions?

      There is no rule in journalism or in Christianity that one must always contact a public figure before critiquing that public figure’s published material.

      Did Paul pull Peter aside and speak to him first privately, when Peter was disdaining to eat with Gentiles in order to stay in favor with the Circumcision party?
      No, Paul could see the damage that was being done and made his concern public straight away.
      And if Peter had had a decent rebuttal to Paul’s argument, wouldn’t Peter have given it more or less immediately?

      Lastly, I gather you did you read all three posts in this series? Is that correct?

  13. Penny Linson

    I took Darby’s complete course this past season and she addressed everything you mention in your blog. Taken out of context I can see how you get where you get and with good reason. But in class Darby carefully spoke to all these things.

    • The point, Penny, is that we were going by what Darby and CCEF had published on the internet about this course. We did NOT take what they published out of context. We carefully read it all and then composed our response to their published materials.

      If Darby and CCEF published info about this course which did not accurately represent what the course was actually going to teach, that is their responsibility. I believe you are being unfair in saying that we took what they said out of context.

  14. Fogislifting

    Thank you, Twbtc, for directing me here when I asked about that book in another post. I found the one point reviews particularly helpful in that they identify out how the author is still using manipulative tactics even while he claims to be changed. It certainly raises red flags.

    It seems that smelling even the hint of a fishy smell is reason to be very suspicious.

  15. I hope Darby Strickland and others at CCEF read this one-star review of Austin James’s book which we have just published.
    Austin James’s book “Emotional Abuse: Silent Killer of Marriage—A 30 year Abuser Speaks Out”. One Star Review by Avid Reader

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