PCA Church’s Final Reply: This is Church Discipline? — Part 6 of Persistent Widow’s story
Once again there was silence from the church. I wrote them a letter with my observations of the situation to that point hoping to receive some indication of where the process was going.
Excerpts from my letter to the church:
I came to the church … to ask someone in leadership to directly confront my husband about the sin of abuse that he was inflicting on my family and the pressure that he was exerting on my 13 year-old son to act in way not pleasing to God. A list was provided with a factual and easily verifiable account of [his] vandalism and abusive acts towards his family and community. I felt that to request this assistance from the church was biblical and reasonable. I wanted [my son] to see that the church cares, and that church membership entails being accountable for our actions. I felt that [my husband’s] public acts would bring reproach to the Gospel and to the church body. If we hadn’t needed help, I would not have brought this situation to you.
The direct result of my bringing this to the church is that [my husband] went to lunch with [the pastor].
The indirect, and the most beneficial result of my bringing this to the church has been that [my husband] made preparations to leave and then proceeded to do so.
The wicked flee when no one pursues. Proverbs 28:1
… I had asked for [my husband] to be confronted for his sins. Should [he] repent, there would be hope that the other problems could be worked on. As a result of the church not acting swiftly to hold [him] accountable, the abuse escalated.
… At this point, the situation was outsourced to a woman with no authority in the church … I felt compelled to pay the nearly $3000 for her service despite the fact that I made it clear to her and [the pastor] that it was inappropriate for this situation … If I was in error for thinking that it was biblical for only men of leadership in the congregation to hold [my husband] accountable, it was never explained to me.
… According to the Westminster Confession Chap. XXX, paragraph 4, it is the responsibility of the officers of the church to admonish church members for sin. … I never received confirmation that the church takes any of the issues that I brought up seriously, and it is not surprising that [my husband] would feel the same way.
… The counselors at [the abuse center] said that I am in a dangerous relationship and that my children and I will suffer if I continue in it; honestly, this seems to be the more reasonable and more biblical viewpoint. I brought literature to [the pastor] about this and no one seemed interested in looking at it or discussing it with me … the secular counselors know that the actions of the abuser come from a wicked spirit which is why they teach that emotional and verbal abuse are the same sin as physical abuse. Christ taught that what comes from the mouth proceeds from the heart … [he] has been cursing and threatening me for years. … Why will the church not hold him accountable for not loving his wife? If I am of no concern to you, do you not realize the terror that children are living in to witness this?
… My friends and family are well aware of [his] issues and hoped the church was helping me. They often ask how I am doing and how this is progressing with the church’s intervention with [him]. I have been embarrassed to tell them for fear of discrediting the church and the gospel that we preach. But not anymore; I must make a distinction … I was told to accept the unfaithful spouse as Hosea did … I perceive that this was only mere opinion and not spiritually discerned. Even family from the Catholic Church know that this is not proper application of Scripture and are disgusted. Using Scripture to further personal opinion is an abuse of your God-given authority.
… [the pastor] said that my conscience will condemn me for not continuing to wait and pay for more counseling … why would I think that counseling would do any good since [he] is not repentant and says he wants to see me dead? I assume that if I paid, and he quit going to the sessions (which is well documented with abusers), only then I would get emotional support from the church. Yes, this would be a win-by-default, I suppose, but at what financial cost? In other words, how much will I have to continue to pay to get a clean conscience? I have very limited resources and this sounds like something Johann Tetzel, a 16th century preacher and salesman of papal indulgences, would have marketed.
… Is there any reason that [he] cannot be held accountable for his own sin? I would be much more impressed with his sincerity if repentance was his motive, rather than the selfish desire to “Get my life back.” I do not know why I am held in contempt by the church for recognizing this. [His] actions have long suggested that he was an unbeliever, despite years of church attendance. Perhaps if he were directly confronted with the severity of his sin and told that his sin is against God and God alone, he would desire to get counseling out of repentance. Isn’t this biblical? Isn’t that what we want for him?
Since [the pastor] has said at least four times that he was confused about my being discouraged by this process, I am hoping that by investing time and effort to write yet another letter, you will finally be able to empathize with my position. Because for 1 ½ years, I have felt either ignored or subject to whims related to a personal agenda, at this point, I would consider the decency of a considered written response on behalf of the entire [church] session. According to [the pastor’s] January 8 note, there are difficult things that I am not seeing in myself. Could you please be specific as to what I need to change and why? Also, I would like to see Scripture proofs that my conscience should be conformed to. If I don’t receive a biblical statement from the session which contains more than the aforementioned Hosea passage, then for practical reasons, I will need to proceed sensibly without your support.
The Church’s Response with Scriptural Proofs and Final Decision
Over two months after I sent the above letter and nearly two years after I approached the church to discipline my husband for his actions, I received the church’s final decision letter in the mail. It was a joint letter in which everyone involved received a copy. The letterhead reads, Preaching the Good News of Jesus Christ and Sharing His Love with one Another. Following are excerpts from this letter. [TRIGGER WARNING: spiritual abuse by misuse and selective quotation of scripture, sin levelling, mutualization of blame for relationship breakdown, false guilt laid on victim; wrongful disclosing of victim’s confidences, thereby increasing victim’s risk of retribution from abuser]
Up until the last few months, the elders have not been compelled to make any type of written or official statement of their views of the issues you are experiencing in your marriage. That is because we considered ourselves to be in a process of shepherding and discipline (Matthew 18:15-18) rather than any type of final stage. Now that you have each stated that you are unwilling to work on restoring the marriage, we believe that it is appropriate to make a statement of our views.
Here two paragraphs were written exposing all of the issues that I thought were confidential between the pastor and myself including my concerns of my husband’s psychological and spiritual state. Nothing was held back. Everything was listed out in such a matter-of-fact manner that I found it shocking and I was concerned that my husband may seek retribution against me. The next two paragraphs listed my husband’s complaints such as I caused him to be angry, I was critical of his personal friendship with the other woman, he was criticized for everything he does, blamed, etc.
… [He] expressed a willingness to begin counseling and work on his issues with anger, but believes that [she] was never interested in working on the relationship … therefore he no longer sees a point in going to counseling … she refuses to acknowledge her own faults. … he believes, his reaction, even if strong, is necessary to maintain some sense of self-respect or manhood. In his words, “I challenge any man in my situation to have done any differently.”
… She is convinced that the hours that he spent talking to [the other woman] on the phone, the meals and events that they had together, all of these indicate an adulterous relationship, if not physically, emotionally. The elders see [this relationship] as inappropriate, but do not see it as adultery justifying divorce … [The relationship] was inappropriate in its frequency (hours a day on the phone according to phone records) but is not the same thing as adultery. … It is impossible for us to determine whether actual death threats are occurring …
… [She] also pursued supportive companionship outside her relationship with [her husband]. [She] increasingly turned to the support of her older daughters…We have observed vacillation in some times agreeing to wait on counseling and sometimes not. We have observed [she] will discount opinions as unqualified that don’t agree with her own assessment. In short, we have observed several things that [she] should work on in herself. … We believe that [she] is demanding and hold [sic] to her opinions rather than evidence presented. We believe that she needs to be more willing to consider behavior in herself that is inappropriate. We believe that she is sometimes unable to see her own issues and, therefore, also needs the assistance of counselors.
…The issues are many and ongoing…Each person looking for the church (and other relationships and authorities) to agree with them…
… Ephesians 5 reminds couples that the husband is the head of the wife and that she is to submit to him, his way of encouraging that is not by anger or force, but sacrificing himself and giving himself up for her (Eph. 5:25) . . . Harshness, name-calling, fits of rage are never justified in a marriage.
… [she] believes that [he] is abusive… because of years of ongoing abuse. In our opinion, it is clear that [he] has acted in anger and outbursts of temper. Actions that resulted in physical confrontations seemed to have been over-reactions. We do not diagnose a person as abusive, but encourage them to seek counseling…When Peter talks about the responsibility of a wife in a difficult relationship (a husband who does not obey the word) in 1 Peter 3, he says that the wife should seek to win her husband over by the conduct of the wives. Even without speaking a word, her respect and submission to God and her husband are primary tools in winning him over. Then Peter gives an example of what that conduct looks like: Sarah obeying Abraham and calling him Lord. Abraham had put Sarah in some difficult situations, (Gen 12:10-20, Gen 20) situations that could easily be labeled abusive today, but her mandate was not to flee the relationship, but to treat him with godly and respectful conduct
… We do not condone abusive behavior in any way, and we encourage a woman who believes that she is threatened to take measures to ensure her safety … every effort should be made to correct the problem through counseling or other means …
… On the other hand, we believe that [he] needs to understand that his expressions of anger cannot be justified by [his wife’s] behavior. Colossians 3:19 says that husbands are to love their wives and “not be harsh with them.” [His] yelling, name-calling, angry outbursts, etc. can certainly be characterized as harsh … Harshness, name-calling, fits of rage are never justified in a marriage …
… we do not believe that divorce is justified. Although inappropriate relationships have occurred, physical adultery has not. Although angry behavior has occurred, we believe that the focus should be on correcting the behavior through counseling, not on justifying ending the marriage.
… While some of these issues are more severe and threatening than others, we cannot say that one or the other person is responsible for the divorce. It is a joint responsibility. We believe it wrong to pursue divorce. We do not believe God is pleased with it…Since you appear to be set in your actions to end the marriage, though, we are compelled to recommend the direction Scripture gives. In particular we would point to 1 Cor. 7:10-11 … A wife must not separate from her husband. But if she does, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband. And a husband must not divorce his wife.
… And this is our opinion in your situation. We are not in a place of agreement with you in proceeding with your divorce. If you are determined to proceed with divorce, we would implore you to remain unmarried or seek reconciliation…
… We would also share the contents of this letter if, in the future, God leads either of you to another body of fellowship.
… Mercy triumphs over sin and love covers a multitude of sin (1 Peter 4:8). It is our prayer that mercy would cover your past and open up a possibility of a future for the relationship you both vowed to God to maintain until death do you part.
Posts in this series
Part 1: Abuse in a PCA church: Part 1 of Persistent Widow’s story
Part 2: The Nightmare of Peacemakers Mediation for Domestic Abuse: Part 2 of Persistent Widow’s story
Part 3: PCA Interrogation, Hard Lessons, and Emerging from the Fog: Part 3 of Persistent Widow’s story
Part 4: Death Threat from Abuser, but Church Refuses to be Educated About Abuse: Part 4 of Persistent Widow’s story
Part 5: I Wish I Knew This About Peacemakers Before I Went: Part 5 of Persistent Widow’s story
Part 6: Is this post.
Part 7: PCA Church Receives Rebuke from Therapist/Life Coach: Get Educated! Part 7 of Persistent Widow’s story
- Posted in: Unjust church responses
- Tagged: abuser's allies, false guilt, false teachers, leadership, pastors, PCA, Persistent Widow, sin levelling, spiritual abuse
PW, those church leaders have failed you. They are false shepherds. I am especially angry they made public the things you shared in counseling sessions and at the threat of exposure to future churches by sharing your private details with any and all church leaders either you or your ex might meet in the future. As far as I’m concerned that sounds like malicious gossip and it is certainly breaking the principles of a pastor. Aren’t there even laws about such things? I thought such a thing is not done.
It just makes me so angry on your behalf. I can assure you, there are churches where such things would not have been done. I am so sorry this happened to you. I hope you and your children are okay.
“Yes, chatting for thousands of minutes with a woman isn’t a really good thing for a husband to be doing, but hey, chill, it isn’t adultery. Back off, wife and submit. A guy is a guy, ya know?”
My husband continues to keep in contact with the woman (for most of our marriage), I had accused him of having an affair with. And he says it never happened,I tried to believe him but my gut instincts keeps “screaming at me!” Do I need to say what my gut instincts is screaming?
It is heart breaking to read these stories. At times I get overwhelmed by what I read, and at times I just shake my head in disbelief and disgust. But, it makes me look at myself as well. I second guess myself, my behavior towards my husband. Maybe I treated him badly? My behavior was NOT always rosy toward him, no, I do not believe I abused him. Yes, I have had outbursts…not that I wanted to, but I felt it was the only way I could get through to him…
Something for me to reflect on.
Not too long ago, I had shared with a pastor personal medical information about my (then) husband. The pastor turned around and shared this information with my (then) husband;
i.e.: …”watch out , husband, your wife has evidence that you have dementia. She may put you into an institution …?
Then, an angry husband of a friend stole her e-mail (including mine, as the third party, in this whole tragedy) and the pastor read the stolen e-mail and held it against me. What I had said in this e-mail was nothing but the truth. It was not meant for his eyes to read. On the other hand, I had nothing to hide!!!
NMT, you might like to participate in an academic survey on spiritual abuse that SSB posted about today. (link [Internet Archive link]). The post said:
NMT – As a pastor, I have had the very same thing happen to me repeatedly. If we have had for example a divisive, wicked person cause havoc and grief in our church, often they leave and go set up shop at another church down the road. Years ago I would phone the pastor to warn him. Very, very rarely does a pastor ever call me to ask “Hey, this person from your church is now in my church. Are there any concerns I should be aware of?” And I don’t mean minor, personality things. I mean issues like such a person being a sex offender or an abuser, a persistent liar, etc. But I don’t bother anymore. Why? Because the very same thing has happened over and over that you experienced. That pastor will not listen to me. He will go tell the people/person I warned him about that I had called. And then I get more nastiness and hatred my way…for nothing. That pastor ratted you out to your ex-husband. He should have been de-frocked for that. If he were a licensed therapist or psychologist or medical doctor, he would have been.
To Barbara, I plan to participate in that survey!
To Jeff, I am sorry to hear that you, as a pastor, had similar experiences. It makes me wonder, why we should even support a church. The bigger they are, the less important their smaller branches’ needs are being considered. What is wrong for each Christian to give their tithe to whoever they seem fit to have a real need for it. It reminds me of the Communist regime, where the government did the thinking for the people. I despise this type of system. God gave us a brain afterall. This together with His Holy Spirit should allow us to make our own decisions. Does the Bible require for us to give to the institution of the church instead to those in our community who need our help?. On a local level, there seems to be much more transparency than when there are so many levels of mid-management involved …?
PS: At one time, when I had a disagreement with the pastor, he simply told me that if I quit, he would too! That is blackmail, isn’t it. He tried to threaten me. He really thought that power was what drove me. Little did he know. Well, he did not want to have to replace someone who did all the work which I had put upon me for the sake of Christ! But enough was enough … the pot had runneth over with water. How sad that people could not see through him.
I completely agree with Still Reforming. I am speechless. All I can say with the deepest sincerity is, God bless you. I am shock at what these people perpetrated against you in the name of God. Yesterday’s post is so fitting for these “shepherds.”
Horrendous. I am so sorry. Maybe this has been addressed and I overlooked, is the is PCA church of America or PCA (USA)? The PCA split over biblical differences years ago. There are two distinctly different churches…the USA is much more liberal (in unbiblical ways). Just my own curiosity. Obviously this is inexcusable from any church. The distinction, however, would be helpful.
Ruthie, This is the Presbyterian Church in America, the conservative branch that follows the Westminster Confession.
Presbyterian Church in America [Internet Archive link]
Presbyterian Church in America (Wikipedia)
They are based out of Covenant Seminary, St. Louis, MO Covenant Theological Seminary [Internet Archive link]
Although I have that heard some PCA churches have handled cases well, many have not. We will be looking into exactly what the PCA official policy and doctrine for handling abuse cases is in future posts. I think our readers will find this information very interesting.
Yikes. So disturbing. I will be going back to read all posts. So very saddened.
Ruthie, glad you are going to read more of the series 🙂
I also suggest you check out our new users info page (see top menu), and give some thought to what screen name you want to use on this blog. If you want us to change the screen name of your published commments, email TWBTC.
Is there one church organization that is true to God’s word? Maybe, we all have to move to Pastor Crippen’s church! Oregon … here we come! All we want is truth and peace!
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.
It would be fine to move to Tillamook Oregon, except that it’s very hard to find employment there. If someone was an entrepreneur who could start a viable business there that would employ lots of our readers, that would be a dream come true! I guess it would have to be a business that provided services online to people in a much wider geographical area than just Tillamook, because in Tillamook the only industry pretty much is dairy farming, and that is all covered already by the local businesses.
ruthie- I think that it was the PCUSA that split and the PCA formed. Yes, the PCUSA is liberal, PCA conservative. But as we see here, there are unsafe churches in the PCA. There are also good ones that have handled abuse cases well.
Even with the trigger warnings, I had no idea how moved I would be when reading the heinous response from that despicable band of vipers. I couldn’t finish reading it. I even jumped from paragraph to paragraph hoping for something – anything – that would validate your actions and responses, but all I saw was blamed heaped upon you. (“We have observed vacillation in some times agreeing to wait on counseling and sometimes not.”) No suggestion that you were seeking to follow God’s Word and not respond in a knee-jerk fashion. No suggestion that you were submitting to their authority. Nothing.
PW, I’m…… overwhelmed with sadness for what you lived through. I’m am glad that you are free and clear and that you have been given a sound mind by God to testify to the abuse of the church heaped upon the abuse of your husband. Your very question ” If I am of no concern to you, do you not realize the terror that children are living in to witness this?” makes me tremble. That this group claiming to be Christian would lead you to ask “If I am of no concern to you…” after having spent SO LONG informing them of the details of your case… it’s an abomination.
The very fact that it took two years (!) and thousands of dollars (!!) to get THIS LETTER! THIS response?? Well, I have to ask you something that I’ve wondered about my own situation, which so far is a little less time and a little less money (though not much less, given attorneys’ fees and now mediator’s and judges’ as well): Do you ever stop and wonder why God allowed this trial with these details in your life? That is, I wonder if God has called you for such a testimony as this – to call out this evil and use you with your unique God-given abilities and His Holy Spirit to shine light into this darkness. Do you ever think that way? I wonder about that sometimes in my own trial.
May God richly bless the sharing of your testimony here for His glory and your good as well as the good of those you love, such as your children.
Still Reforming, Thank you for your insightful comment. My dealings with the church on the abuse issue was extremely traumatic and a real test of faith. What I thought was a cut-and-dried church discipline issue became a muddled, subjective mess. The church lead me on a vague course from the onset and the crazy making from church authorities made me seriously wonder if I was losing my mind. They made me question reality and they portrayed a different god than the God that I know. The whole thing caused me physical illness and mental torment for years. It was surreal.
I knew that if I went with the flow of whatever they were trying to do the abuser would be back in our home. Throughout, my indignation was kindled over the surfacing of false doctrines that I came to realize was works-righteousness that I never knew was present in the PCA. I kept thinking that it all must be some kind of a mistake.
As I read over these posts, I ask myself why did I stick with this church for so long? I believe that it is the same reason that many of us have remained in other abusive situations for years and decades. First of all we are faithful people, expecting that others will return that faithfulness to us. We are anxious to overlook an offense so it takes repeated transgressions before we begin to realize a pattern and that we are up against a different spirit.
Second, after investing so much time already in the marriage or church relationship we keep thinking that things may possibly get better. Maybe we are on the cusp of change. So it is a hard choice to leave if things are potentially just about to improve. After sinking in, this letter I received finally sealed that decision. Actually, it was as if God himself wanted me out of that church and as you will see in the next post, blocked my return.
I know that God brought me, and all of us, to that place of despair to show our weakness and his powerful ability to save like when God brought Israel to the Red Sea. I believe that God has used all of the abuse I endured to prove that he is trustworthy and after proving that to me over and over again, my faith is strong. And certainly, he molds us who have been through these ordeals to minister to others, offering them validation and spiritual affirmation that they so desperately need.
I think that light must shine on the the secrecy in which this process operates so that victims can make their own decision to participate or not at the onset. And I think the doctrines of these churches, affiliate teachers, counselors, and mediators must be exposed. So yes, I do feel that God brought me to this place to work for transparency or changing this corrupt system. I believe that the righteous anger we all feel about this issue is from the Holy Spirit. And I am certain that God has molded you for the battle against this Goliath, too, Still Reforming.
To God be the Glory!
Hello persistent widow. I have experienced similar attitudes from leadership in several churches, each a different denomination. You can read my blog. I’ve gone to about 7 or 8 various church leaders for help and never received any empathy or compassion or help at all. I’ve instead received blame, or indifference. I Truly believe that the Spirit of God has left the so called Christian religious institutions, and the wicked one is in charge in these places. From what I’ve experienced they are places of wickedness and corruption. I believe the leaders there are there primarily to earn a salary, at to enjoy their power and control. I also believe there is a dark spirit of hatred towards women in many of the conservative churches. I’ve seen it towards myself and other women.
I admire your strong faith in Jesus, and I too still believe strongly in Him.
voicewilderness1, This problem is due to a matter of false doctrine and legalistic moralism that has infiltrated the entire evangelical church through popular books, seminars, and of course counseling and mediation programs. It is not segregated to any one particular denomination but like an infectious disease has epidemically spread throughout the professing Christian church, to some denominations more so because of their already legalistic bent. The whole mess is constructed on the gender-role ideology of the Biblical Manhood and Womanhood Movement, rigid Westminster Confession rules regarding divorce, Jay Adams counseling concepts, the belief of the church holding power to rule over an individual’s conscience, human reasoning, and money. This list is not comprehensive.
Yes, there is a dark spirit of hatred towards women in many churches. According to the confessions of the Lutheran Church, that is one of the marks of the spirit of the antichrist, hatred towards women. The Spirit of God has indeed left many churches and they are synagogues of Satan.
So sorry that you went through many trials, but I perceive that God has blessed you with wisdom and insight, well equipping you as we press on in this battle together.
yes. That word captures the cognitive dissonance, the numbing, the repeated assaults of spiritual and emotional abuse, the sense of being under a spell and being led by winds of doctrine whose origin is hard to discern because the velvet-gloved carrots and sticks put us in handcuffs so gently, so slowly that we don’t even realise we are handcuffed.
It is hard to read this. This kind of response was almost EXACTLY what happened to me. It is a horrible thing for almost adult children to witness happening. The sense of no safe place when the one place they felt there should be refuge proves to be otherwise. If there is one thing I have learned (which I am still a long way from processing it all) is that my first mistake was seeking refuge and help in the church. God’s heart has not changed. A Cry for Justice has been a lifeline – a lifeline of validation and support.
Sheisovercoming – me, too. I just got the email a few minutes ago giving me the “heads up” that I’m going to get a certified letter. (Since the last one told me that if I continue in my “contumacy” I will be excommunicated, I can safely assume that’s what this letter will be about.) My adult and almost-adult children have also had to experience what you mentioned. My teen-aged daughter has said over and over, “I thought the church would be there for us. Why have they done this?” Her faith is badly shaken and she’s grown bitter. She struggles to understand how they can claim to be followers of Christ and in no way resemble what she reads about in the Bible. I’m trying to help her see that all believers are not like that. …And I totally agree – A Cry for Justice has been an absolute lifeline.
Wear your ‘excommunication’ certificate with pride, For Too Long. All it will mean is that you’ve been excommunicated from the church of the Pharisees. You will not have been excommunicated from Christ’s church. 🙂
Wow. My husband and I used to attend a PCA church and I am very glad we didn’t stay there. This is a perfect example of the religious Pharisees Jesus excoriated in Matthew. He called them serpents and vipers, whitewashed tombs full of dead men’s bones and filth. They certainly placed heavy burdens on you and didn’t lift a finger to help you bear your burdens.
I truly believe that our churches these days are nothing more than cold, dead religious institutions and are apostate. They are nothing more than businesses and social clubs. The bible says in 1 john 3 that we know a true follower of Jesus by his or her love for their Christian brothers. I think the religious leaders in this scenario were wolves in sheep’s clothing.
I’ve had similar experiences in turning to “churches” for help although not near as extensive and involved as this. I find that there is a contempt and disrespect for women in many of these man-centered so called Christian religious organizations. I suspect that many church leaders are themselves narcissists and abusers themselves.
Voicewilderness – If you think about it, the Bible speaks to these evils over and over and over again. Take just say the gospels and the New Testament epistles – throw in Revelation as well. Just think how much of their content has to do with warning us about false teachers, savage wolves, false brethren, hidden reefs, trespassers, false shepherds, Satan as an angel of light…and on and on and on. Wherever the body of Christ is, these vultures are sure to show up. They have no life to give of themselves. They are not appointed nor sent by the Lord. Yet here they come, claiming He has sent them. They use high-handed, abusive and deceptive tactics to achieve their goal of enslaving whole churches so that they are worshipped and glorified rather than Christ. And yet what I find is that many Christians don’t want to hear about these warnings. They don’t want to hear about “negative” things. “Keep it positive” they say. Then, when a wolf comes along and smacks them in the face, they call him “a great one of God” and bow down to him. We dare not be ignorant of the enemy. He not only is prowling, he is swarming around us.
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.
“Wherever the body of Christ is, these vultures are sure to show up.”
Yes Jeff. Your sermon last Sunday brought this out really well. 🙂 Thank you.
I agree with you, totally … “dead, religious institutions !” Can we not go back to the times when believers met in small groups to worship God and to help one another?
You are not alone in your thoughts here. I tend to give people a looooooooooooong time before I would have thought this, but …. not so much anymore.
They opened with “Now that you have each stated that you are unwilling to work on restoring the marriage, we believe that it is appropriate to make a statement of our views…” and the rest of their words are one long condemning indictment of the victim. These men are evil fools. Their church is no church. They actually sided with and are allies of the abuser. Why? One can only conclude it is because they are birds of a feather with him. “Yes, chatting for thousands of minutes with a woman isn’t a really good thing for a husband to be doing, but hey, chill, it isn’t adultery. Back off, wife and submit. A guy is a guy, ya know?”
Pack of wolves. Pack of wolves.
Oh, and “peacemaker lady” – once again, hand over the $3000 to PW. You ripped her off.
These men have no fear of God.
Unfortunately, I have experienced the same type of attitude of what I call “organized church.” Just because a church is supposed to be a safe haven for all sinners, they are sinners too. Just because someone is a lawyer or a doctor, one cannot blindly believe them. I had to learn to rely on the Holy Spirit to help me discern good from bad. Is it surprising that many people, nowadays, consider themselves spiritual but not religious? Many have learned not to trust organized church but only the people who show God’s love.
I received much of the same, a lot less words, but content & intent the same. Unless physical abuse or adultery have occurred, there is not much that can be done for Christians in severely troubled marriages looking to pastoral care for help. Some are so smart and clever-minded, they know exactly how far they can go before crossing the line and they gleefully do it. Reminds me of when we were kids and would sometimes stick our tongues out and wag saying “na na na na na….you can’t catch me” in a game of tag.
The covenant of marriage is no childhood game.
If this is the message of churches toward marriages that turn sideways, then I feel they should be bold enough to preach that from the pulpit…..often. So people make decisions about Christian marriage with eyes wide open. We are not upholding the vows/promises you made that created the covenant….. but as long as you don’t commit adultery or physically abuse your spouse, anything else you can conjure up against your mate is fine. (Though we ‘say’ it isn’t fine, we will do nothing in the way of discipline of you or protection for the one sinned against. So our saying it isn’t fine is meaningless for everyone.)
And there you have it….the highest we aim for in marriage. Can it be any surprise the trouble that comes when humans adjust their view of marriage to what suits them vs following God’s plan for marriage which contains instruction for BOTH persons entering in.
PW, I grieve for you and with you.
Remedy – You said that churches really say (but don’t say it) “but as long as you don’t commit adultery or physically abuse your spouse, anything else you can conjure up against your mate is fine” . You nailed it. Yep. “Oh, by the way, if your spouse doesn’t keep these vows he / she is making…too bad. Nothin’ you can do about it. Oh, didn’t we mention that before the wedding? I’m sure we did.” Not!
The highest aim for marriage, in too many churches, is “don’t divorce, no matter what.” And they call this a ‘high view of marriage.’
Somehow, reducing the sacred vows to ‘don’t divorce no matter what’ is a ‘high view’ in which they take self-righteous pride.
I know a woman who was physically beaten by her husband and came to church with the bruises to show for it. The pastor still would not confront the husband and just gave her a pamphlet and outsourced the situation to an outside agency. It’s chilling to think what these false shepherds will face on Judgement Day. It will be really bad for them.
You wrote: ” they know exactly how far they can go before crossing the line and they gleefully do it. Reminds me of when we were kids and would sometimes stick our tongues out and wag saying “na na na na na….you can’t catch me””
I used to think this about my marriage too. It brought to mind a children’s game where my brothers would wave their hands in my face saying, “Does this bother you? I’m not touching you!” It was just one of those annoying things where someone could provoke you but not get in trouble for it. There was no touching.
The marriage was similar in that he knew how to walk right up to that line, occasionally crossing it, but never to the point of being in legal trouble. And that’s one of the many problems with legalism. One can continually be allowed to transgress the heart of the law, if not the letter.
OMG! Spiritual Abuse from this Church. Jehovah El Roi God Sees…….
I have read all of your posts, and this is by far the hardest to read. Made me feel sick to my stomach to hear your churches response..brings back memories of the harsh words I received by people who claimed to have my best interests at heart, but were there to just sit upon their lofty thrones casting judgement because I could no longer live in an abusive relationship. What makes me the most angry is how so called Christians use scripture as the final nail in our coffins..by using scripture as a weapon they seek to exert the same kind of control as the abuser, but candy coating it to make it appear palatable. My prayers go out to you as you seek to move forward in your life.
Dawn – the words are hard to read, aren’t they? You know how sometimes you make comments on some blog or online newspaper or something and these sharks attack you – even on some so-called “Christian” sites? Well, these words that these wolves wrote to PW in their final reply remind me of that very same kind of attack. Apparently someone died and made them king. There they sit, in their board room, issuing their decrees to which she, a lowly woman, must submit. They are gods. Furthermore, you have to wonder, right? What in the world are these “gods'” marriages like? What do their wives have to live with? I gotta say, they sound like the men Jude warned us of – Jude 1:12-13 These are hidden reefs at your love feasts, as they feast with you without fear, shepherds feeding themselves; waterless clouds, swept along by winds; fruitless trees in late autumn, twice dead, uprooted; (13) wild waves of the sea, casting up the foam of their own shame; wandering stars, for whom the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved forever.
Amen Jeff. Unfortunately I have come across far too many people in leadership that think that it is their job to set you straight. It actually makes my skin crawl when I hear words of condemnation that are disguised as Godly counsel, all the while they are smiling and trying to convince you they are showing you the love of Christ. I love how those passages you share paints a very clear picture of evil that is hidden behind a facade of love.
That is a question I have asked myself many times. The women who scolded me for “dishonoring” my husband, the pastor who persisted in telling me this was a mutual problem and if I learned to communicate (a field in which I have a graduate degree) better, maybe we could solve it. What is happening in their homes, behind closed doors? There was no physical battery (beyond marital rape, which doesn’t exist according to them), no adultery, so I am considered to be lost to sin for having divorced. I didn’t just have to leave the church, but the entire denomination. It has been years, and I still wish I could punch that pastor. How many other women has he discouraged from breaking free?
Lynn, Here is where the survivors gather sharing our stories that are all too familiar. In your story the church used manipulative sin leveling and blame shifting in an attempt to restore an abusive marriage, straight out of the Jay Adams, Nouthetic Counseling, Peacemakers playbook, it is chock full of false doctrine and lies. These so-called pastors and counselors deceive the vulnerable and persecute those who question them.
Sorry that you endured their persecution, but I think you should wear their scorn as a badge of honor. God drew you from that place because he loves you. We need to keep telling our stories to expose the wickedness that is prevalent in so many churches.
“Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” 2 Tim. 3:12 ESV
What a ludicrous and idiotic asserstion by that pastor. You have a graduate degree in communication, but he just slaps downs in your lap the pastoral counseling platitude he picked up from the flotsam and jetsam of christianeze, in the smug belief that he has is giving you a pearl of wisdom!
I’m praying the imprecatory psalms over this false shepherd!
With perspectives of so-called Biblical marriage such as these men of PCA have, that are repeated and strewn across the globe in staggering numbers, is it really any wonder that the world’s perspective of marriage has become so perverted? This is the “salt and light” they are being exampled. It is putrid and dark.
In closing comments of a letter of condemnation penned to a woman who has confided to church leaders that her unrepentantly abusive husband has made increasingly serious death threats against her life…
…essentially telling a victim that her responsibility is to stay until she is murdered…until she is freed by her own untimely death…
Having been in two different churches which were under the authority of misogynistic pastors, I can relate to PW’s dilemma. My heart aches for her. It seems to me that she has gone beyond the pale in attempting to obey the Lord’s will in this matter. However, in regard to the “leadership’s” pathetic and cowardly treatment of her and her situation, it begs the question, just what right, scripturally, does the church actually have to dictate to a wife what course she must take in her marriage if she knows in her heart she is obeying the Lord? Does the pastor and elders decision and judgment call in her marriage trump the Holy Spirits leadership? I would leave such a church and not look back.
“It is better to obey God and not man.”
I think they presume this right because of what it says in the Westminster Confession:
This asserts that a person who is considering divorce must not be left to make his or her own decision about whether to divorce, but must be guided by the counsel of others. And of course, most people who follow the WC assume that the ones doing the guiding must be the church leaders. By this double presumption, church leaders accord to themselves the right to interfere and to dictate to the victim of abuse whether or not she may divorce her abuser.
Is this assertion and presumption based on Scripture? The only scripture proof which is given in the Westminster Confession for the bolded portion of my quote above, is Deuteronomy 24:1, a verse which talks about a man giving a certificate of divorce to his wife. That verse support the ‘public and orderly course of proceeding’ clause, but it does not support the claim that the persons concerned in divorce ought not be left to their own wills and discretion in their own case.
Therefore, I conclude that the WC statement bolded above was written by the Westminster Assembly with no scriptural proof.
Now, I am willing to concede that some members of the Westminster Assembly may have been thinking of Proverbs 11:14 (where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety) as a support for their notion that the divorcing person(s) ought to receive counsel and guidance from others and not make their decision on their own. But they didn’t cite this as a scriptural proof in paragraph IV.
I believe the majority of Reformed Christians, not only those who subscribe to the Westminster Confession, have assumed and enforced the stricture that divorce is not allowed for a Christian unless the church has authorised it. This assumption and its enforcement is, like so many traditions, very wrong and has led to much injustice.
Of course, none of us here at this blog would condone flippant divorces, the kind that we sometimes see in Hollywood stars for example where divorce and remarriage is rather like changing one’s car for a new model. That kind of divorce is not condoned by the Bible. But to put victims of serious marital mistreatment under compulsion to get their proposed divorce ‘approved’ by the church leaders, is a recipe for ignorant, foolish or evil leaders to oppress already wounded sheep.
And the stricture that divorce is not allowed for a Christian unless the church has authorised it, goes right back to Roman Catholicism. For hundreds of years in western europe, Roman Catholicism was the only form of Christianity (unless you were lucky enough to be in a minute pocket where true believers were surviving below the radar).
Roman Catholicism ruled with an iron hand over all questions of marriage and divorce. It ruled as both church and state. The mindset that church leaders have the right to govern all decision about divorce has a long heritage. In the Reformation, some Protestant areas gave the right to control and legislate about marriage and divorce entirely to the state, and declined to retain it as part of the church’s authority (though of course church ministers still presided at wedding ceremonies). But the Protestant church has never entirly given up its belief that it has the right to ipso-facto legislate about divorce; the belief is still very strong in many modern Protestant circles.
Longterm readers will recall our promotion of Ps David Dykstra’s sermons in which he dealt with the question of why the London Confession of 1689 (the Reformed Baptist Confession) did not contain any doctrine on divorce.
The London Confession copied a lot of the Westminster Confession word for word, but it pointedly omitted the WC’s teaching about divorce.
To which I say, thank God!
Find out more about David Dykstra’s sermons here: Pastor David Dykstra on Marriage and Divorce
[Editors’ note added August, 2019: Dykstra is to be abhorred for defending convicted child abuser Tom Chantry.]
And God said, “Women, lay down your lives, minds and souls for your husbands. Keep them happy and allow them to flirt with physical adultery and actually commit adultery in their hearts. It is good for you. It proves you to be a Christian wife. Also, take the blows of abuse, in whatever form they take, because after all, I have called you, as Christian wives, to lay down your lives for the wolves’ souls.”
No! It can’t be! God didn’t really say that, did He?!?
Nope. Of course He surely did not. But that is exactly what the wolves in wool standing behind our pulpits want us to believe. It is deception. It is not the truth. It is the eyes of the blind trying to lead the seeing.
We dare not accept it, nor believe it, but rather leave it – in fact run for your lives away from it – and go, be at peace with the true Christ, Who loves His daughters and would not ever appoint anyone to kill them on behalf of the wolves.
I think the real problem here is that there is a teaching within the Church today that calls for the saints to die for the wolves – the real live wolves. It is a false teaching that pervades today and has completely twisted the true Gospel. The Gospel is for the broken and those seeking repentance and change. The Law is to be applied to anyone else including those who hate Christ enough to batter and abuse His sheep. When the sheep are battered and abused, don’t forget, Christ is also being battered and abused, according to Jesus’ own words. It is only those who hate Christ, who would abuse and / or allow abuse to be practiced against the true sheep of God.
Here, here! to your comment. Thank you.
My above comment was for IamMyBeloved’s. I also want to say that you really hit the nail on the head when you said, “…the eyes of the blind trying to lead the seeing.” Before I married my pseudo-husband and took counsel from the church leaders that were in our lives over the years, I saw the things of God so much more clearly. Then they led me through such dark paths that my spiritual life was nearing despair. Praise God that He shined a light in. They are blind and they are at home in the dark and light does them no good. The seeing are not at home in the darkness that the blind surround us with.
Seeing the Light,
You wrote: “Then they led me through such dark paths that my spiritual life was nearing despair. ”
This is where I am – or as close as I can get to this – right now. I haven’t picked up my Bible for any real thoughtful reading in more than a year – and that’s embarrassing to admit, even here among people who understand. I’m not trying to blame my husband or church for my lack of that – but between the belittling and neglect at home, and then the virtual support of same by the church – it just… well, it all fell apart. There was no heart in me to read it anymore. And I feel bad about that, but I also didn’t want to just read the Bible out of legalistic “must do this” thinking.
My prayer now is for the Lord’s deliverance to a place where child and I can worship Him freely and receive instruction in a body of believers to be drawn back into the fold. Or even just a stirring of my own heart – to renew my heart and create a right spirit in me. I know I have His Holy Spirit; I don’t know that’s it’s a quenching of Him that I’m experiencing now so much as it is an overwhelming sadness and loneliness. I want to want Him again, as I used to. Does that make sense? Has anyone else been there like this? I’m praying to Him that He draw me back – and I confess to Him my lack. I can’t do it myself. I’m trusting He will do it – in His time and in His way. I hope so.
yes, that makes sense.
Somewhere, I wish I could remember where, I have read that a lot of PTSD is grief. Pure and simple grief: but so much grief, so thick and heavy, so frequently swept under the rug by the sufferer and by society, that it seems monstrously irremediable.
To see it as grief may make it easier to work through. What do we do with grief? We recognise it, we allow the emotions, we do not deny them, we let the tears come, let the waves of anger roll through, we weep, we mourn. And as we go through it, we gradually find our spirits returning. Our frightened crushed spirits comes to our life again as we feel the gentle mercy of our Lord reaching out and touching our grief.
And if we have companions who are willing to weep with us as we weep, that helps a lot. (Romans 12:15)
Grief – yes. I was thinking just the other day that although I do not want my abuser back, I miss the presence, the relationship (the one I thought I had that I never did). It’s akin to a death – because someone was there (or the person I thought he was was there), then not.
An abuse counselor told me this with respect to our child, that for her it was like a death. One day there, next day not – and he was gone for months, then popped back in suddenly and demanded time with her. (Weird, but not so much when one understands the entitlement serve-me mentality.) So for her I imagine it’s like a death but with a ghost now reappearing – one the courts demand she spend time with. She doesn’t want to, but she doesn’t have rights or a voice allowed (even via attorney ad litum, viewed as a provocative move against the abuser).
Thankfully, she belongs to the Lord as well, and He will lead us through this. Comments such as yours greatly help. Yes, it’s grief – in many ways – and that kind of loss takes time, doesn’t it, to heal. I will remember that to help her as she walks through the next few weeks, months, and years. Your testimony with respect to your own daughter is helpful to me / us.
Still Reforming, I think I understand how you feel. You said: “I want to want Him again, as I used to. Does that make sense? Has anyone else been there like this? I’m praying to Him that He draw me back – and I confess to Him my lack. I can’t do it myself. I’m trusting He will do it – in His time and in His way. I hope so.”
Yes, I have been there, especially the wanting to want Him. I am not actually very far from there now. I am also lonely, sad, discouraged, afraid, and then I am hopeful, trusting. It can be quite an emotional roller coaster. The difference is that I have stopped (or almost stopped) associating God with my abusers. It was so hard to want Him when I associated His perspective of me with their perspective of me. In the absence of God doing an instantaneous miracle to heal everything, it takes time to heal spiritually as well as emotionally and so on. I think prayer (importunate prayer like the widow in Scripture) and trust is the perfect place to be. I have waited many years for Him to answer and I believe He is doing just that. It’s strange, but though I am not at rest right now or even delivered from my oppressive situation yet, I am supported by the sense that He is guiding things in a way I wasn’t before. It’s like seeing His fingerprints in a room quite a while after He has left – but you know He has been there. I used to think I would prefer an instantaneous turn-around, but I don’t think so anymore. To pray, wait, keep watch for Him, and trust is more edifying somehow (even though sometimes it feels awful). Well, I have gone on a bit, but I think you are right where you need to be and I would only encourage you not to be discouraged at your lack, but to meditate on His gentleness and love whenever you can. He is so gentle. He understands why you are where you are. (By the way, I have prayed for you).
Seeing the Light,
Yes. Yes. Yes. While I am still in the process of His deliverance for me, I am not yet fully delivered – and yet, I know this is happening in a way that I myself could not have done and that He is doing it. So I completely “get” what you write. Like His fingerprints in a room. He’s been there and is still here and I’m relying on Him, yet like you I waver between times of peace and times of inner turmoil, fear, and great sadness. It’s a roller coaster to say the least, but … perhaps without knowing the pains and sorrow, the depth and reality of the trust would not be as great. So I do know what you mean. You write beautifully, btw. Thank you too for the prayers. I am learning more and more how effective the prayers of a righteous man (Jesus) through His saints – such as you – truly are.He has truly blessed us by giving us a family of His own making, n’est-ce pas?
I think what you describe sounds perfectly normal and it sounds like you are handling it with great wisdom. In particular, not trying to force yourself to read out of a legalistic sense of “ought to.” I believe as you heal your desires will come back “online” and it is OK to just be where you are, as long as you are being honest before God, which you clearly are.
I’ve heard of people who come out of spiritually abusive situations that not only don’t want to read but don’t even want to pray, and remain in that place for extended periods of time. They become concerned because it is not because they don’t like God anymore and they don’t understand why they don’t want to do Christiany things like prayer and Bible reading. It seems to come down to being so over-religionized that those practices themselves seem fake. Eventually they do find that the desire to engage in that way does return, but it is expressed in a more healthy form than what they knew in their group.
It wouldn’t surprise me if what you are experiencing is just simple weariness of spirit and performing disciplines like Bible reading are just too much. These are times when God carries you and I think it’s perfectly OK to just let Him do that.
I can remember a time recently when I had to go through something quite minor compared to domestic abuse, but it was still a bit too much for me to believe God for. So I ended up saying, well, He’s just going to have to do it anyway without any faith from me because I don’t have any. And don’t you know, He did.
Seeing the light & Still Reforming….. I can exactly relate and will try to clarify what it seems to be with me.
I do not doubt that I am a born again Christian and have devoured and loved the Word for 19 years. When I read/study, there are precepts and concepts about life in Christ that are important and should seemingly be important to other followers of Christ. (?) And so I assume people who profess Christ hunger & thirst for righteousness and we have all the same Spirit… Right? Yet, it seems I come to very different conclusions than some. I see a lack of concern for righteousness and a lot of lukewarmness. Also a lot of good old boy club and a lot of low views of women. These things are not of Christ when I read. So……I have become weary of being quite concerned about the things Scripture tells us to be concerned about and church leadership being apathetic if it might cost something. Reputations must be protected! Unity at all costs must be maintained. The Lordship of Christ includes acceptance of my abusive marriage as proof I am saved. On and on.
The inconsistency of how I understand the Scripture with how my denominational leaders understand has affected my love for the Word. How can we be of the same Spirit, read the same Bible but come to such opposing views???? I am left baffled & heartbroken and only shreds of faith to hold onto. My confidence, trust and faith in church leadership is shattered. I never, ever dreamed I would find myself in such a position.
In reading this back to proof, it occurs to me this is why we trust and look to Christ and not men. I get that. Still, something precious is missing in the ‘fellowship of the saints’ that should also be our portion to enjoy here on the earth. I do thank the Lord for this blog and the passion for Christ so many have as you tell your stories.
STL & SR….may the Lord heal even those parts of ourselves that have been SO wounded.
A concept that fits with what you’re saying here is the concept of the visible church & the invisible church. The invisible church is those who are regenerate, truly born again in Christ. It is the church universal: and it consists of the elect, those whom God has not only called, but chosen and imparted saving faith to by His sovereign grace.
Many church attenders are part of the visible church but not members of the invisible church.
I think you are part of the invisible church. Members of the invisible church generally want to attend church services because they want fellowship with other believers. But sometimes the visible church has so few members of the invisible church in it that the lukewarmness and / or hypocrisy set the tone for the whole thing, and the members of the invisible church are frozen out.
I don’t have total respect for Augustine, but I believe it was him who first articulated the concept of visible and invisible church.
SR – Let me assure you of something. (Not sure I am “replying” in the right place, so hope you see this) God is still pursuing you. God is still with you! God wants you! This is all normal. This is the result of being so darned abused that you just cannot function anymore – in any area, including your walk with Christ. Don’t forget that Paul and the others ‘despaired of even life” themselves (2 Cor. 1:8-10) due to all they were enduring. Of course abuse is not to be compared to this form of persecution they were enduring, but nonetheless, even the great men of the NT despaired.
God will see you through this. Just rest in His love and protection and know that when you cannot walk through this, He is still carrying you and loving you and desiring His best for you – always.
I have walked through the flames of the fires and am coming out now. God’s promise not to let the flood or the fire overtake us, is genuine. It will NOT overtake you. I experienced your same feelings and confusion and felt the loss of my great Love. But, it was just due to the abuse I was suffering. Nothing more and nothing less. God has always been with me, never left and when they tried to throw my life away, He was waiting outside their walls of torment and Pharisaic living and took me into His arms and healed me. It has been a long process and it is not over yet, but I know that I know and am stronger than I have ever been. These trials of our faith (not the abuse, but feeling God has left or we cannot reach Him anymore) are meant to prove to us that we have genuine saving faith. He will show you and heal you and make you new inside and stronger than you ever thought you could be.
IamMB – Thank you for this reassurance. Even though I know what you said in my head, my heart hasn’t absorbed it fully yet. I still pray (never stopped that) and still believe. It’s just the Bible reading that waned, and even though my head knows that I’m not saved by that work, I still miss the pleasure of it that I had. I just don’t want it to be mechanical.
Also, some part of me chastises myself for that lack of reading, even though I know it’s not right to hold that up as if God likes me better or I’m a better Christian if I (fill in blank). I feel like I’m not following Him enough or rightly or whatever, even though I’m between churches (sort of) and not well-connected with a worshiping group, etc.
So your words are a great comfort. I know it all depends on Him and not me. I just need to let that Truth take root and grow deep and well-planted in my heart and hold onto it. Thank you again.
“We would also share the contents of this letter if, in the future, God leads either of you to another body of fellowship.”
Does this constitute a threat to preclude a fresh start with a new congregation or am I misreading it? Are the writers of this insanity stating that they won’t allow any other perception of this marriage other than that which they have constructed? Or are they so out of touch with reality that they actually believe they have helped this abuse victim?
I read it as their intent to attempt to block potential fellowship with another church…to force their perspective of the relationship on another church…
I heard it the same as Joe, Suzanne.
I am going to be honest…I couldn’t even get through the second or third paragraph of the misnamed church’s response. I was so triggered just because the same style tactics of the enemy (blaming and minimizing and using my words against me) were employed against me in letters from my false-husband.
The damage, the persecution, the love of playing holier-than-thou, it makes my soul feel sick to merely read what a church did. We are going through Isaiah in church and the pastor gave six signs of Babylon in the false church and persecution of Christians was one of the signs. Without a doubt you were persecuted for insisting on biblical support.
What if God had taken the same stance in regard to our former relationship with the kingdom of darkness?
“Nope! Sorry! Your ancestor, Adam, entered into covenant relationship with the kingdom of darkness and you personally confirmed that covenant through your own sinful attitudes and behavior. Now you’re stuck in an eternal covenant with evil.”
Those are not the words or attitude of Christ, our Redeemer and Deliverer! Thank God, Jesus came to redeem and deliver us from that awful enslavement to sin!
No…those words…those attitudes…are the claims made by Satan, the “accuser of the brethren.”
And Jesus, our intercessor, continually counters those claims, on our behalf!
Christ redeems, delivers, and advocates for us!
JP01, that’s an insightful parallel! And that’s what I find outrageous at reading this 6th part of PW’s story, is that the people in authority who should have care for her, compounded the abuse. Not only the church leaders didn’t help PW as she was presenting to them the truth of her H’s abuse and adultery, but they also blocked the entrance for her to turn to a new life away from abuse !
Woe unto you, lawyers! for ye have taken away the key of knowledge: ye entered not in yourselves, and them that were entering in, ye hindered.’ Luke 11.52.
Those who sow in wickedness are predisposed to having a fearful spirit.
“The wicked flee when no one pursues.” Proverbs 28:1
The more those of us seek after righteousness, the more boldness in the Lord we incur.
I found the analogy below fittingly attached to this proverb.
The lion is not afraid in the onset of beasts, because he knows well that he is stronger than them all.
Whence the fearlessness of a righteous man is rightly compared to a lion, because, when he beholds any rising against him, he returns to the confidence of his mind, and knows that he overcomes all his adversaries because he loves Him alone whom he cannot in any way lose against his will.
For whoever seeks after outward things, which are taken from him even against his will, subjects himself of his own accord to outward fear. But unbroken virtue is the contempt of earthly desire, because the mind is both placed on high when it is raised above the meanest objects by the judgment of its hopes, and is the less affected by all adversities, the more safely it is fortified by being placed on things above”
I am so saddened by your being treated that way. It’s like – being treated as if you are so “insignificant”. Like it doesn’t matter the pain and angst, sorrow, heartbreak and evil that you have endured. . It is beyond callous and insensitive. (Woe unto you scribes and pharisees) they tie up heavy burdens hard to bear and lay them on people’s shoulders and will not lift a finger to help them. Wow. You are so courageous to share this. Thank God there is a balm in Gilead. Thank you and God bless and heal your family.
The ACFJ team has notified every department at Covenant Seminary about this series of posts by Persistent Widow.
So I’m just putting this on the record here.
The further you get into your story the more sickened I get by the way this cut and dry issue (IMO) was handled. Physical or emotional adultery–what difference does it make. You have an entire list of offenses. Adultery was not the only issue. Your letter was brilliant, by the way. Their response was unfortunately not only slow but typical I’m afraid. Their shallow knowledge of scripture is disturbing for those having gone through seminary. I have long felt such training over rated and this once again proves my point. There are so few that give appropriate training in even basic Bible knowledge. What you have gone through with your church makes mine look like a day at Disneyland.
I was on staff and was fired from a PCA church for not reconciling with a sociopath who threatened my life and went on to marry and get arrested for assaulting his third wife (also a church staff member doing similar work!) I later confronted the leadership about it. They issued a statement of repentance… not sure I’ve seen the fruit of it though, based on a different situation I’m dealing with presently. But when I confronted them, I researched the official PCA position. It does hold that abuse breaks the marriage covenant and that the teaching on an unbeliever abandoning his spouse should be applied! So the official position of the General Assembly is actually solid, though the actions of individual churches may not be.
PCA Position Paper on Divorce and Remarriage [Internet Archive link] (p.291-292):
Yes Jessica, we know about that Position Paper from the PCA. I’m pretty confident Persistent Widow will be mentioning it in later posts in this account of her experience.
One big problem with that Position Paper is that it was non-binding on individual churches. It gave guidance, but it did not enforce that guidance on all PCA churches. Hence, the inevitable has happened: many PCA pastors don’t seem to know of the Position Paper’s existence, and even those who know of its existence may disregard it if they wish to. I don’t know whether Persistent Widow’s PCA church knew about that paper, but if they did, they certainly thumbed their noses at it. Likewise the church you have suffered under.
Another big problem with the Position Paper is that it is vague on the definition of abuse. The quote you gave above mentions ‘words or actions’ by the abuser, but in the rest of the paper it seems to focus mostly or only on physical violence as constituting abuse. It is typical of the PCA and likeminded churches to shy off making definitive defintions of key terms, so that there is wriggle room. Sigh.
We have stated our Non-Negotiables for Effective and Biblical Abuse Ministry, and one of those non-negotiables is that the definition of domestic abuse has to be clear and comprehensive.
But at least the PCA General Assembly did approve of the Position Paper way back in 1992… Yeah, that long ago, and it still seems to be off the radar of so many people in the PCA!
Thank you so much Jessica for contributing your report to this post. The more voices we have validating our concerns, the harder it will be for the PCA and other church which are ignoring this problem to shut their ears to the Cry for Justice.
And welcome to the blog! 🙂
PS You might also like our article about how Carl Trueman and Todd Pruitt believe that abuse is grounds for divorce. Carl teaches at Westminster Seminary California. I wish he would take more leadership is speaking out on this issue against those in the PCA who still don’t believe that abuse is grounds for divorce.
btw, Jessica and other readers, if anyone wants to access the PCA’s Position Paper on Divorce without going thru the biblical counseling coalition’s website (which is the way Jessica linked to it in her post above), you can find it by going directly to the PCA’s own website, here:
PCA Position Paper on Divorce and Remarriage [Internet Archive link]
I’m replying not so much to your comment as to the excerpt from the PCA report that you provided.
Is it just me or does anyone else find that it … weird – for lack of a better word – that this entire body of men portending to be Christian cite Jesus as having an “exception clause” (ie, adultery)? I know many Christians hold that view, for want to more thorough exegesis and Bible study, but I’ve never heard it put in such crass terms. The Lord has exceptions to His own rules?
The other thing that leaped out at me from their words was this: “‘sexual immorality,’ which breaks the ‘one-flesh- relationship.” Well, that sure boils marriage down to bare bones. It’s just an odd perspective of the relationship – if a relationship at all. And what is their view of “sexual immorality”? Would they include looking at porn in their definition? How about lust? Where does Persistent Widow’s husband fit into that category (hours, meals, events with another woman)? Do they think it immoral that he carried out a long-term relationship with a woman outside of his marriage?
I know that ‘one flesh’ is a Biblical term, but their employment of it here reduces the relationship to just that. It’s so…. narrow and truly non-relational. It’s purely academic and cold.. and heartless…. and without the love of Christ.
Ditto goes for the rest of their words. They’re so academic in their scrutiny: ” the Session should investigate whether these words and actions are in effect breaking the one-flesh relationship by “hating” the abused spouse and not “nourishing and cherishing” this one..” It’s like they’ve picked up on the political correctness of ‘hate’ crimes. If the crime involves to an outside view some element of racism, then it’s a hate crime, but if a white person kills another white person, it’s not a ‘hate’ crime. These men are perverting the Word of God to be something so clinical that it’s … well, it smacks of men’s works and not God.
This one’s the kicker: “When it is determined by the Session that the abuser does not appear to them to be Christian and the abuse continues, the Pauline teaching about an unbeliever leaving a believer should be applied.” And how do these men suggest that happen? These men have so scrutinized the couple’s lives by now that they say, “Oh, he’s an unbeliever in our view. You need to leave her now because this is abusive and you’re not in the flock. We’ll ‘apply’ Pauline teaching here.” So do they come and physically remove the non-believer from the home? And… if he’s not found to be an unbeliever in their eyes, he can stay?
I’ve never worshiped in a Presbyterian church before, and these guidelines are not encouraging me to worship in one any time soon.
Yes. It reminds me of how someone at SSB brilliantly mocked Doug Phillip’s weaselish claim that he had not committed adultery:
“unless tab A has been put in slot B, immorality has not taken place.”
… She is convinced that the hours that he spent talking to [the other woman] on the phone, the meals and events that they had together, all of these indicate an adulterous relationship, if not physically, emotionally. The elders see [this relationship] as inappropriate, but do not see it as adultery justifying divorce … [The relationship] was inappropriate in its frequency (hours a day on the phone according to phone records) but is not the same thing as adultery. …
… [She] also pursued supportive companionship outside her relationship with [her husband]. [She] increasingly turned to the support of her older daughters…
I do not know why these men have any credibility.
Good point, BIT. I asked the pastor what evidence I needed to prove adultery and he said that he didn’t know.
That’s not the thing. I mean, that too. But the ridiculous comparison is the thing that got me.
He talks to a woman not his wife for hours, etc and that is Inappropriate. True. (One hardly needs to be a Christian to recognize that though, so no points for them.)
But you talk to your adult daughters and that is inappropriate?? And in the same way????
I do not know why these men have any credibility.
Oddly (or, actually PREDICTABLY) these wolves seem to have no trouble with falsely accusing PW of “pursued supportive companionship outside her relationship with [her husband]. [She] increasingly turned to the support of her older daughters”. So they condemn her for protecting her own daughters while conveniently dismissing that which Jesus defined as adultery (“But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to desire her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”)
THEY said, “[The relationship] was inappropriate [sic] in its frequency (hours a day on the phone according to phone records) but is not the same thing as adultery.”
Where I come from, that makes them dumber than dirt. (Jesus said they “strain at a gnat & swallow a camel.)
Jesus said it WAS adultery. So they defy Jesus. This also makes them blasphemers.
Jesus also said “woe unto those thru whom stumbling blocks come; they would be better off dead” [paraphrase mine]. Luke 17
This makes them double-ditto-dumber-than-dirt-blasphemers.
More accurately, according to scripture, it makes them “dumber-than-dirt-better-off-dead-blasphemers”.
Lest that sounds harsh, here is how Jesus described such vermin: “whitewashed tombs, brood of vipers, blind guides, hypocrites, blind fools, filthy cups, snakes, greedy, dead, lawless, lying, self-righteous, tomb-building, grave decorating, camel-swallowing gnat-straining liars.” But he didn’t stop there.
Jesus also said they would be held responsible and condemned to hell. It’s all right there in Matthew 23.
So PW–you are in good company with Jesus…and with those of us who stand with you, and with Him & in truth and against lying snakes in suits.
“I’d rather be alone with Jesus than in a crowd without Him”.
Amen! In today’s world, I would like to stay below the radar. But then, who would fight for what Jesus preaches?
I found it particularly odd as well that this counsel of men chose to call out PW’s seeking support from her older daughters as “ALSO pursued supportive companionship outside of her relationship with her husband…” effectively equating the parental relationship PW had with her children to the extra-marital affair of her husband.” It’s only by the grace of God that PW stayed on this side of sanity.
I can easily see where it would cause one’s head and heart to spin and withdraw deep into oneself. I personally relate to the images I’ve seen accompanying articles about DV that have a woman clasping her hand over her own mouth, because the kinds of responses such as PW received tend to cause one to do that. We’ve done it for years with our abusive husbands, then to receive the same from biological family, friends, and the church – who is to be our true family given us by God – well, were it not for this on-line ministry, I know that I would truly despair.
I so agree and you stated it far more eloquently than I. 🙂
I also identify with the imagery of a woman’s hand over her mouth. The experience of having no voice, or being told your voice has no value, that it is subordinate to the abuser, the church, and even to God HImself [via scripture-twisting] is revulsive.
I, too, would despair if not for this site. It’s a “sanity-check”, sometimes, it is even an epiphany to realize you’re not alone and you’re not crazy and you have a voice and it has value and it matters deeply to God.
Blessing on all of you here~
You wrote: “you stated it far more eloquently than I.”
Oh, I dunno. Personally I think “double-ditto-dumber-than-dirt-better-off-dead-blasphemers” to be about as eloquent as it gets.
Wish I’d have thought of it! 😉
For years I’ve noticed that when I’m listening to a sermon in church, I often have my hand half over my mouth.
Now I’m wondering what that signifies.
I found myself doing it at home while reading testimonies of experiences on this website. My hand draws swiftly to my mouth and covers it. But I hadn’t realized just how frequently until I recently saw that same image – photos of women with their own hands covering their own mouths – accompanying two articles about domestic abuse. That’s when it caught my attention.
So I’m not the only one who does that, and it started me thinking why I do. My suspicion is that I’ve been silent for so long – having been conditioned by experience with my husband and then also having been taught that a wife’s silence is Biblical. In fact, a verse from another women’s Discipleship class at the church I recently left just leaped into my mind this minute:
“Set a guard, O LORD, over my mouth; Keep watch over the door of my lips.” – Psalm 141:3. That verse was given to me and written down for me with instruction as to how we as wives are to not speak so much to our husbands, how husbands abhor our talking so much. It’s little wonder that the hand-over-mouth gesture comes naturally to us now.
I should have proofread better before posting. Sorry. I’m up extra early today…
What about this part of the Confession though?
“or such willful desertion as can no way be remedied by the Church or civil magistrate, is cause sufficient of dissolving the bond of marriage;
Hasn’t a person deserted their marriage if they are abusing, threatening, emotionally detached, screaming, wishing you dead, etc? It appears that the elders of this church don’t seem to understand what marriage is/should be about.
But I also agree with Barbara that the Confession is not equal to scripture and should be evaluated as such.
PW – I am sorry for what you have endured. It does seem that God is turning your pain and loss into good fruit. Thank you for trusting him through it all.
From page 118 of my book Not Under Bondage [*Affiliate link]:
Jones says this on page 28 of his paper “The Westminster Confession on Divorce and Remarriage”, which (as I understand it) was part of his submission to the PCA Committee that had been appointed by the 1989 General Assembly of the PCA to review, report and make recommendations as to whether the Scriptures permit divorce for abuse. It was that committee which, three years later, produced the report which was formally accepted by the General Assembly of the PCA in 1992 as their Position Paper on Divorce [Internet Archive link].
*Amazon affiliate link — ACFJ gets a small percentage if you purchase via this link.
In other words, Dr David Clyde Jones, who used to teach Biblical Ethics at Covenant Seminary, believes that ‘wilful desertion’ should be replaced by ‘wilful repudiation of the marriage covenant’.
I think it a great shame that more people in leadership in the PCA and other denominations that follow the Westminster Confession have not rallied in support of Dr Jones’ suggestion. Leaders in the PCA, are you listening? Will you stick your necks out on this one? Or will you continue to give insufficient attention to it?
“It is impossible for us to determine whether actual death threats are occurring”
This statement right here seems to tell the story for me. Somehow, it’s about what they can determine more than it is about what actually occurred.
Because justice in their eyes and according to their ideas is more important than the safety of a woman.
Yes, and yet another example of devaluing the voice of a woman, or her children. They can’t just believe her, they demand proof….”proof” that they define and redefine & minimize until it’s meaningless. The demanding of proof becomes itself abusive, while the committee drones on & on & on. Ps Jeff, you have said so often that people “become what they worship”, and in this case, they are worshipping the “system”, the “church”, the “committee”. They no longer have ears to hear or eyes to see…..
“For God so loved the world that He didn’t send a committee”.
The demanding of proof becomes itself abusive,
“Show us a sign.”
I think it’s telling that in all my 30 years as a Christian, I have never once heard a sermon that deals with domestic abuse. Ever.
Neglected sheep – Yep, that tells a lot, doesn’t it? I be you’ve heard plenty of sermons on wives submitting!
“Somewhere, I wish I could remember where, I have read that a lot of PTSD is grief. Pure and simple grief: but so much grief, so thick and heavy,…”
Exactly what I am experiencing at the moment. Today is a hard day..many questions and emotions. Why do I miss him? 😦
She said because marriage was a picture of Christ and his bride. She pointed out how horrible of sinners we are and how much Christ suffered for us and still sticks to us.
I have heard this taught myself. I don’t know what this is except a denial of the new nature and the new birth.
This is disgusting.
I was in “counselling” with my ex Fiance with a high up couple from a church, I was telling them about several suspicious relationships my Fiance had with other women (flirting, massages, midnight phone calls, and many other things) the man angrily raised his voice at me and said “He’s allowed to talk to other women! He can talk to them if he likes!” then proceeded to give me this advice…”next time she calls, this is what you say…hello, how are you? then you pass the phone to your Fiance”
My Fiance also started complaining about my son, saying that he didnt always take his plate to the sink when he finished dinner. This man’s response was to tell me to kick my son out on the street.
My son was in his final year of school at the time and was soon to be doing his final exams. He was never any problem to me and I have a great relationship with him, he is a good son, he has never done drugs, was never rebellious, I am very proud of him. I had already been through a divorce several yrs prior due to abuse and adultery on my ex Husband’s behalf (although compared to my ex Fiance my ex Husband was “tame”). My son’s Father was barely in his life. This “counsellor” did not care one iota about my son or me. I was not even married to my ex Fiance and because he had one small complaint about my otherwise good son, I was advised to kick my son out on the street. That would have been child abuse. I was repulsed when I left that counselling room.
Good for you for walking out of that counseling room feeling repulsed, Tanya. Your repulsion was right! That ‘counselor’ must almost certainly be an abuser of his wife himself — no ordinary man (ordinary as in typically ignorant of abuse dynamics, but not himself an abuser) would say things like that.
Tanya, You were wise to divorce your former h, not marry the fiancée and ditch the counselor. Your son will be a man who will treat a woman well. You have shown him what the difference is. Blessings to you.
Your counselor reminds me of the first (of three) marriage counselors I called to see with my husband. When I lamented my husband’s ogling other women while in my presence, even craning his neck in restaurants to leer at them, the counselor told me that “men look at women the way that women look at babies. You just have to accept it.”
After a few more $100-an-hour fruitless pointless sessions, I said we weren’t going to be attending anymore. My husband said that it was all my fault and that he had no problem with the counselor at all. My husband thought that counselor was great – not that anything ever changed in our relationship at the time. No wonder husband thought he was great.
Hey, I’ve just noticed, there are 102 comments on this post!
You hit a nerve here, Persistent Widow. 🙂
Can anyone point me to an article that summarizes the way the disciplinary process within the PCA is being abused in cases like this one?
We are having a very difficult time trying to get safe after having experienced this process from my lifelong church.
By participating with the church, we exceeded certain limits for the number of days / months after abusive events take place, where Domestic Violence centers, etc. will make us a priority.
We get repeated questions about what we experienced, why we participated in this church process and why we felt it would even help us at all.
I had always been comforted by the fact that the process was in place, thinking that it would protect us if anything went wrong. It has not. (That is a horrific understatement.)
Previously, I have been sending a link to this story, specifically this page with it’s discussion in the comments….as it was so clarifying for me when I first read it. But I am still having trouble. The last person (an estranged co-worker) who is a believer, had an unexpected reaction and I have not heard from them since.
I considered sending the more recent article about Lynette English & Valerie Hobbs, but had been advised to not re-contact or expect any help from PCA / PCA churches and considered that option to be unsafe. The article might lead some people to believe re-involving with them is a possible solution. (If it is, I would be willing, but still never be able to do that alone.) My efforts to reach anyone for help at PCA headquarters, even for a recommendation of someone experienced in abuse, have been answered repeatedly with refusal to give me any name or any contact. So I felt this was confirmed.
We are having to seriously escalate our reaching out to all kinds of people, in trying to get help quickly. And this question is continuing to be one of the first asked.
I could use a really good source for explaining this process if anyone can recommend one!
Hi Jamie, we don’t have an article on this site which summarizes the PCA process for handling domestic abuse. The PCA do not make it easy to find out what their ‘process’ is. Time and time again we have heard from victims who have attempted to get the PCA to deal with the abuse and other types of grave injustice properly, and they tell us that:
—The PCA is incredibly slow in the way it processes these things.
—The PCA appears to love hiding behind ‘the process’ to delay giving support and justice to the victims.
—The PCA with their Code Book and their multiple levels of church courts (Session, Presbytery, State Assembly, National Assembly) can very easily kill the case by burying it in process and red tape.
—The PCA wears the victim out by prolonging the process for months and years…the victim usually gives up because she has no energy left to fight.
—This appears to be exactly what the PCA wants because it gets the PCA ‘off the hook’. The victim ends up crawling away on her hands and knees, with no scandal clinging to the institution of the church.
—So the PCA is more about preserving the PCA institution than protecting victims of abuse and giving them even a teeny weeny bit of justice.
—If the victim perseveres through all the red tape of the various levels of church courts, the PCA might end up excommunicating her. But they don’t really want to end up with this outcome because it might besmirch their reputation a bit. They prefer death by process, compared to death by excommunication.
Personally, in my case in the Australian PCA, I was more fortunate than many PCA victims seem to be in the USA. My Session eventually (as slow as a lumbering dinosaur) ruled that I had grounds to divorce my abuser under 1 Cor 7:15. But my abuser was not in that church and he was not actively trying to enlist the church as his allies. When the abuser has lots of allies in the church, it is our observation that it’s almost impossible for the victim to get justice in the PCA.
Jamie, here is a link to the comment I just wrote to you.
PCA Church’s Final Reply: This is Church Discipline? — Part 6 of Persistent Widow’s story
You might like to send people that link.
Jamie, you said that by participating with the church process, you have exceeded certain limits for the number of days / months after abusive events take place, where Domestic Violence centers, etc. will make you a priority.
That is so awful! I feel really sorry for you.
I gather that it is secular workers and bystanders or ‘friends’ who are repeatedly questioning you about what you experienced in the church process and why you participated in this church process and why you felt it would even help you at all.
I suggest the short answer you can give to people who put those questions to you is something like this:
All my years in the church they had taught me that the church process was the right thing to do if someone had problems with another person in the church that could not be resolved by private one-on-one discussion. And they taught me that the church process was fair and just. They never told me how slow the process would be. They never let it be known that they had no policy for responding to domestic abuse. I assumed they would have experts on domestic abuse in the denomination who victims could be referred to for support.
What’s more, I had been trained by the church to believe that it was wrong to seek support from secular professionals if I had not pursued the church process first. I held off asking secular DV services for support because I thought it would be sinful to do that without having tried the church process exhaustively first.
Thank you so much for this. I think this will be helpful. I will examine the details further and may follow up with additional questions or input.
A point of clarification: In my case with the PCA church, I am not even attempting to divorce. I have never asked for a divorce and neither has my husband. I am only trying to find a way for us to get safe.
There has been rampant abuse from many directions. And with still not being safe, I’ve been forced to focus a large portion of my time on practical issues. We have been participating with so many resources here at the website, also links provided here and books recommended. I have not been able to do the study I would like to do about the entire matter of divorce.
I am still not sure I trust my ability to discern for myself, exactly what has happened and who is at fault. Not being in a position to diagnose my husband or anyone else, I am hesitant to make a decision on divorce without further guidance from qualified professionals. We just have not been able to get to that stage.
Although I will divorce if it is the only way to provide a safe home for my children. It has never been my goal.
I totally understand that. And yes, most PCA churches in the USA double down on the victim even for separating, even if she hasn’t said a word about divorce….