I Wish I Knew This About Peacemakers Before I Went: Part 5 of Persistent Widow’s story
As I shared in Part 1 of this series, I had lived with an abusive and adulterous husband for years, and the ambiguous direction of the church “process” coupled with the safety risk due to my husband’s increasing anger, left me in a disoriented state.
In Part 2 of this series I relayed my personal experience of what an abuse victim can expect in the Peacemaker sessions. I was given no solid information of what to expect prior to Peacemaker mediation and I felt that the pastor, elders, and Peacemaker counselor were all deceptively, perhaps deliberately vague, so I really didn’t comprehend what I was getting into.
Thankfully, I received spiritual counsel from a Christian therapist/life coach who helped me to see through the confusion. She wisely told me that the Holy Spirit is a spirit of love and peace and asked me if I felt love or peace coming from the church’s intervention. I had to honestly reply that I did not, rather I felt a contrary spirit of hatred and discord. Her profound observation set me on the right path away from the church’s burden of false guilt introspection to scrutinizing the church’s accusations against me.
Searching for answers
Three months later, although I still did not comprehend how the mediation was biblical and what its purpose was, I wrote a letter of complaint to Judy Dabler author of the book Peacemaking Women: Biblical Hope for Resolving Conflict, and the founder/supervisor of the Peacemaker center that I attended. In the letter I told her that my husband was abusive and adulterous and that I had documented events that were easily verifiable, yet he was not held accountable for anything. I explained that I thought he should have been psychologically evaluated before mediation, that I never received validation but blame, my concerns were trivialized, there was no concern for my children’s well being at all, and that after the mediation, the abuse escalated. Following are some excerpts from my letter:
In actuality, the services at Peacemaker Ministries have only made matters worse. My husband is angry at me for the cost, that embarrassing situations were brought out, and he mocks me about the events from the history I read — it was all my fault. Recently, he has said on two occasions that he wants to see me dead. I have now sought help from the local abuse center and they are taking all of this very seriously — something Peacemaker Ministry would not do. I am embarrassed that the church lags far behind the secular world in dealing with the reality of abuse and helping people. This should not be.
. . .no mention of the welfare of the children ever came up. At least four times the discussion of payment (check, promissory note or credit card) to Peacemakers were focused on. . .
All of this seems to be a very opportunistic and irresponsible way to exploit a lot of money from distressed people for absolutely nothing in return. I believe that this is a ministry in name only, some Scripture was read, but I have found no genuine love or compassion, no spiritual or psychological knowledge imparted, no validation, only a trivialization of sins against someone seeking help and guidance. . . I will be paying for this debt for a long time on a credit card, but actually, I am in a better position than someone who makes a great deal of money at the expense of Christ’s suffering people. It will be frightening to be found conducting a ministry in his name that he never approved of.
I explained that the nearly $3000 was excessive and financially burdened my family at an already difficult time. Since I perceived that Peacemakers needed to be educated about abuse, I closed the letter by telling her that I finally found validation through Jeff Crippen’s sermons and Barbara Robert’s book, Not Under Bondage [*Affiliate link]. In the following weeks I left messages with her staff to follow up and discuss these issues.
Five weeks later Judy Dabler called. Briefly she simply stated that what I experienced was the way that they handled abuse cases. I asked her what the prognosis was for abusers who continue in the biblical counseling and she said that she was unaware of any who had truly changed. She mentioned that she knew of one who with extensive counseling had less verbal outbursts, but was still angry nonetheless. At least that validated my decision to refuse financial responsibility for my husband’s proposed ongoing counseling as the pastor pressured me to do.
Concerned about the procedures at Judy Dabler’s facility, I called the main Peacemaker Ministries office in Montana [This link is broken and there is no replacement. Editors.] to file a complaint. I was referred to Steve Long, Director of the Institute for Christian Conciliation, Peacemaker Ministries. [This link is broken and there is no replacement. Editors.] He was cordial and sent me a complaint form, but I noticed that in order to file a complaint, the complaint needed to be prelisted on their form. The form consisted of standardized complaints to choose from, but all of the options were inapplicable. There was no area to write in “services inappropriate for domestic abuse.” The choices were such as did the Peacemaker try to persuade you to come to her church?, or was she discourteous?, etc. Realizing that filing the complaint would be fruitless, I sent Steve Long an email suggesting he look at the ACFJ website and asked him what the Peacemaker Ministry policy on domestic abuse is. He wrote:
Blessings, Thank you for your reference to the blog. I clicked on it and it looks enlightening. It certainly is a worthwhile cause and I am sure the Lord will bless you for helping victims. We do not have any current policies regarding domestic violence generally at present, so I can’t help you there.
Peacemaker policy: No divorce for abuse
Peacemaker Ministries [Internet Archive link] was founded by Christian attorney, Ken Sande and follows the guidelines in his book, The Peacemaker. The tagline that runs across every page of the Peacemaker website is “Equipping and assisting Christians and their churches to respond to conflict biblically.” Basically Peacemakers is a Christianized legal mediation service. I have found only two references to domestic abuse in Peacemaker Ministry literature. One is cited below where Ken Sande writes of the church taking serious measures, primarily discipline, in reaction to abuse. However, note that divorce for abuse is unacceptable to him personally and consequently, not a biblical option in the Peacemaker organization:
Abuse within a marriage presents special challenges. Referring to God’s love for justice and His concern for the oppressed, some people argue that abuse also constitutes grounds for divorce. I have not yet been persuaded of this argument, but I certainly recognize the need for the church to take serious measures to deal with abuse. This may involve formal church discipline and even calling in civil authorities to protect the family and force the abuser to face the seriousness of his sin. (pg.5)
Ken Sande “Church Discipline: God’s Tool to Preserve and Heal Marriages” in Pastoral Leadership for Manhood and Womanhood, (edited by Wayne Grudem & Dennis Rainey, Crossway Publishing, 2003).
According to Sande’s position, reconciliation is the only biblical option in abusive marriages. The following is the only other mention of domestic abuse that I have found at Peacemakers. Again, divorce is not an option in abusive marriages. From the PM Ministries’ Marriage and Family Conflicts Q & A page:
Abuse, Question 5 [Internet Archive link]: My husband is both verbally and physically abusive. Some friends say I should just forgive and submit. Others say I should get out. What does the Bible say I should do?
Answer: The Bible calls us to love our enemies and do all we can to resolve conflicts in a way that will lead to complete forgiveness and reconciliation. It also teaches that we should submit to those whom God has placed in authority over us. But neither of these commands cancels other biblical principles that apply to domestic abuse.
Matthew 18:15-20, Luke 17:3, and Galatians 6:1-2 clearly command us to lovingly yet firmly confront someone who is caught in a sinful habit pattern. There is nothing in the Bible that says a wife should not follow these passages. If your husband is sinning against you through verbal or physical violence, God says you should do everything in your power to help him repent. If you cannot confront him safely on your own, you should go to your pastor and ask him to talk with your husband (Matt. 18:16). Or you could appeal to your husband to go to counseling with you. If he refuses to respond to counseling, then you should ask your church to exercise discipline in an effort to bring him to repentance (Matt. 18:17-20). (If your pastor is inexperienced in dealing with domestic violence, encourage him to read the CCEF booklet on Domestic Abuse [This link is broken and there is no replacement. Editors.]).
If your husband refuses to respond to church counsel or discipline, and if you or your children are in danger of serious harm, it is appropriate to separate temporarily and seek help from the police and civil courts (Rom. 13:1-5). Sometimes a violent man has to face civil consequences before he sees the seriousness of his behavior.
Even while you pursue these avenues, you also need to follow other biblical commands with regard to your own heart and conduct. While nothing would justify abuse on the part of your husband, Jesus still calls you to take responsibility for your contribution to the situation, even if it seems small (Matt. 7:3-5). As God enables you to change things you may be doing that aggravate conflict in your marriage, it may be easier for your husband to submit to counseling and make lasting progress in controlling his anger.
As God brings repentance and confession to your husband, you can grant forgiveness and experience a genuine reconciliation in your marriage, thereby demonstrating the redeeming power of God’s love and forgiveness.
Will the booklet Domestic Abuse, How to Help, actually help?
The CCEF booklet, Domestic Abuse, How to Help by Powlison, Tripp and Welch, recommended in the above Peacemaker question and their only recommended resource on domestic abuse, is inadequate to equip a pastor to help with abuse. It is inexcusable that there is not even a working definition of abuse or instruction on how to recognize abuse in a booklet with this title. The bizarre introduction reads (TRIGGER WARNING),
Couples who publicly sit at peace in church pews can nevertheless be at war. They attack each other, defend ground, attempt manipulative guerrilla tactics, and declare occasional truces. When war has been declared, there is sin on both sides; but when violence is involved, typically a strong male oppresses a female. With God’s grace, these afflicted women will begin to look to the church for help. When they do, what are some basic biblical guidelines for your ministry to such women — and their husbands? (page 1)
Over two pages are devoted to teaching the oppressed how to disarm the abuser by confessing her sin to him so that she “will see clearly to remove the speck from her brother’s eye.” (pg. 7) This tells us that CCEF maligns victims by inverting the speck/beam saying of Jesus, just like Bob Jones University does to its victims.
The other half of this tiny 18-page booklet is directed to ministering to the abuser. On page 10, “Similarly, you should typically expect to find two sinners embroiled with each other, not one irredeemable monster oppressing one innocent victim who needs no redemption.”
Translation: Marriage problems are always caused by both parties.
The Slippery Slope Wheel
This Slippery Slope [Internet Archive link] diagram was handed to me on the first day of Peacemaker mediation. It immediately made me question my resolve and redirected my focus to trying to comprehend what it meant. The top four gold bar positions represent Peacemaker services and it appears that actions in the lower bars are progressively unspiritual with the bottom positions representing death. I recall that while looking at this I noticed that my considered intent to leave the relationship (flight) and divorce (litigation) were only slightly better than suicide and murder. It threw my already frazzled mind into confusion at the onset because this wheel makes no sense. Dealing with abusers is much too serious for the options to be confined to the gold bar categories on this wheel and it is manipulative of Peacemakers to teach that the truly sensible choices of divorce and withdrawal from abuse are unspiritual.
Strong Words for Peacemakers
So the evidence provided in this post confirms that although churches send traumatized domestic abuse victims to Peacemakers Ministries who are needing to be rescued, Peacemakers Ministries is not trained to deal with abuse, seemingly not interested in becoming educated about abuse, and cannot provide genuine help. And why would they? They are making a tremendous amount of money from abuse victims’ misery. The longer they string them along, the more money they make. Peacemakers deals with all dispute cases in the same fashion, mechanically pursuing reconciliation. No screening process to detect abuse, no risk assessment, no safety plan, no validation, no justice. Their services are a means to their goal of reconciliation at all costs, and that cost falls on the abuse victim financially, emotionally, and risk of personal harm through the abuser’s potential retaliation.
This leaves me wondering… would any abuse victim choose to go to Peacemakers if their church didn’t force them to and they weren’t emotionally vulnerable? And wouldn’t the money making machine of Peacemakers (tuition received for training mediators, books, mediation services, counseling) run to a grinding halt if victims weren’t pressured to attend? My conscience was never convicted by the no-divorce-for-abuse doctrine, so why should any abuse victim pay to be strong-armed into accepting their doctrine through these mind games? It is difficult enough to make sound decisions while engulfed in the stress and trauma of abuse, church intervention, and financial duress. I was financially handicapped by Peacemakers and still had a long stretch of financial abuse to endure as the divorce played out. Peacemakers is truly a reproach to the church and needs to be scrutinized as a money making racket.
I have posted some one-star reviews of the CCEF booklet, Domestic Violence: How to Help and Ken Sander’s The Peacemaker at both Amazon and Christianbook. If you would rate my reviews at both vendors as helpful, it may draw attention to how harmful these resources and Peacemakers are. Links to reviews follow:
*This link to Christianbook.com will take you directly to a commenter who apparently knows and agrees with Peacemaker no-divorce-for-abuse-teaching. Just scroll down a couple reviews to find mine.
*Amazon affiliate link — ACFJ gets a small percentage if you purchase via this link.
Posts in this series
Part 5: Is this post.