UPDATE Sept 2021: Barbara Roberts has 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.
[February 20, 2023: There have been some changes made to this post. For more information, read the Editors’ notes at the bottom of the post. Editors.]
One of our readers pointed us to an article on the Orthodox Presbyterian Church website called (trigger warning) Helping Victims of Domestic Violence1 by Ed Welch from CCEF (Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation). We have yet to experience any CCEF acknowledgment of errors they have written in their published materials about abuse.
Be forewarned, the article by Welch will trigger, raise blood pressure, and generally make you jump up and down yelling “how can anyone get it so wrong?!”
Our ACFJ team members have collectively written this critique. Welch’s words are indented and italicised. Remember, this stuff is on the OPC website and thus endorsed by them for their churches.
Couples who sit peacefully in church pews may nevertheless be at war. Spouses can attack each other, defend ground, employ manipulative guerrilla tactics, and declare occasional truces. When war has been declared, there is sin on both sides, but when violence is involved, a strong man typically oppresses a woman. With God’s grace, afflicted women often look to the church for help. When they do, what are some basic biblical parameters that should guide your ministry to them?
Well, he gets it wrong right out of the starting blocks with this opening paragraph. See it? Fundamentally he endorse the myth that domestic violence is a two-sided problem; he mutualizes the fault: “there is sin on both sides“, rather than ascribing the fault to just the perpetrator. He talks about spouses attacking each other, manipulating each other, declaring occasional truces, as if both spouses had equal power and were mutually to blame for the dynamics of the relationship. He wrongly describes it as a “war” — characterising both parties as combatants — but domestic abuse is not a war, it is the tyranny of the totalitarian dictator with his KGB and his Animal Farm mind-control system working secretly to keep the oppressed spouse intimidated.
And as well as regurgitating the myth that the abuse victim is a combatant in a war (rather than what she really is: a prisoner in a prison camp experiencing domestic terrorism), Welch recycles another myth about domestic abuse — that it’s mostly about physical violence. He promotes this myth by talking about one of the combatants in this supposed war having the advantage of physical strength. “When violence is involved, a strong man typically oppresses a woman.” This is an all-too-typical example of the idea that abuse is primarily physical violence, and that if physical violence isn’t occurring, it isn’t really abuse, it’s just “marital conflict”. These are notions which all competent domestic violence professionals will reject in a flash.
Welch now sets out to instruct pastors and church Sessions and members on how to properly minister to abuse victims. He fails. Once again notice his emphasis on “violence” and we must conclude that he specifically mean “physical violence”:
Remember that some victims of violence are reluctant to speak openly about it. They may fear that openness will lead to retaliation by the perpetrator. They may feel ashamed that they contributed to the war (though they are not responsible for the violence done to them). They may consider their problems unworthy of an elder’s or a friend’s attention. Or, they may feel ashamed that their husbands could dislike them even to the point of violence.
The implication here is that: “yes, the victim has indeed contributed to the war herself, but she isn’t to be held responsible for the violence done to her.“ See the thinking? Welch fails one of the first tests in the field of domestic violence (see our Non-Negotiables). His thinking focuses on physical violence primarily. In fact: we all know that the bulk of domestic abuse done to victims is non-physical, psychological, emotional, and spiritual. Notice this confirmed in Christ’s sufferings:
And he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground. (Luke 22:41-44 ESV)
Yet not a hand had been laid upon Him to this point. No sound theologian, especially a Reformed theologian, would think of denying that Christ’s sufferings included His pre-Calvary oppression at the hands of wicked men, yet those hands never laid upon Him until after Gethsemane.
So it is with domestic violence. The suffering of violence often does not involve physical assault, and even when it does, the abuser may only use physical violence rarely. Many an abuser has broken his wife’s spirit without once touching her in anger. Abusers are cunning and know that using physical violence may lead to criminal charges, or may wake their victim up to the fact that A.B.U.S.E. is happening; and they can often accomplish their goal of power and control without taking that risk.
Furthermore, Welch does to the victim the exact thing that the abuser does to his victim: he gives her contradictory messages. Message one: “When war has been declared, there is sin on both sides.” Message two: “Victims are not responsible for the violence done to them.” So is the victim’s sin contributing to the problem? Or is she not responsible for the problem? The victim will try to make sense of these opposing messages but will be unable to because they can’t both be true! She will feel like she must be crazy because she can’t work out a way to make sense of both of them at the same time.
Welch is not done:
If the woman is confident that returning to her home will not lead to her physical harm, then listening should include a more systematic review of the violent, controlling patterns in the marriage. This information is most helpful when it is specific and written down. Then the perpetrator can be confronted according to the requirements of Matthew 18, and made to understand that the church leadership takes domestic violence very seriously and will act to protect his wife even as they seek to minister to him and hold him accountable.
This is simply staggering in its ignorance of the dynamics of abuse. Notice again, if anyone had any doubts, Welch believes that physical violence and harm is the necessary requirement for separation. And it’s a temporary separation: he doesn’t make mention of divorce at all in this article. (We have noted that CCEF routinely avoids coming out and addressing divorce for abuse.)
Additionally, Welch makes no recommendation that the victim ought to seek the advice of domestic violence professionals to assess her risk and work out whether it is safe to go home. And he doesn’t even mention Safety Planning! Welch puts all the risk assessment burden onto the victim herself, which is dangerously bad practice. Risk assessment and safety planning is something that is best done by DV experts working respectfully and closely with the victim.
Welch is also dangerously uninformed about the mentality of abusers. He believes that things can be taken care of with Matthew 18, that the church can “minister” to the abuser, and “hold him accountable.” Minister to him? That means “serve” him. Where in God’s Word do we have instruction that a wicked, evil man who has worn the façade of Christianity, all the while wickedly abusing his wife, is to be “ministered to”? The abuser is a reviler, and 1 Corinthians 5 instructs that a reviler who profess to be a Christian is to be immediately put out of the church as a scandalous sinner and the church that fails to do this is guilty of arrogance:
It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father’s wife. And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you. For though absent in body, I am present in spirit; and as if present, I have already pronounced judgment on the one who did such a thing. When you are assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus, you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.
….now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler — not even to eat with such a one. (1 Corinthians 5:1-5; 11 ESV) [Emphasis added.]
The dangerous counsel continues —
You teach the oppressed to put their hope in God
The victim must be encouraged in her faith. As in all suffering, she may think that God is indifferent and aloof, or that the perpetrator is all-powerful. Either way, affliction is always a time for God’s people to know and rely on our God who hears. Furthermore, if a victim is ever to move toward a repentant perpetrator in love and to open herself to love and trust, she must be strengthened by a robust faith. [Emphasis original.]
Welch’s patronizing tone makes us gag. He haughtily assumes that the oppressed woman has not been putting her hope in God, so (silly woman) she needs to be taught to do so. How audacious! How offensive to the victims! And think about it for a moment. What is the reason some victims may come to think that God is indifferent and aloof and the perpetrator is all-powerful? Because a) the church is usually indifferent and aloof; b) the perpetrator is powerful in keeping her intimidated, confused and exhausted; and c), the perpetrator is enabled to continue abusing his wife because the church continues to be taught myths about domestic abuse by people like Ed Welch!
You will see as you read through this article that Welch, as evidenced here, really says that it is God’s will for an abuse victim to remain in the abuse. In addition, it is her obligation before God to “move toward a repentant perpetrator in love AND TO OPEN HERSELF TO LOVE AND TRUST”! Mr. Welch, did you really say that? A large part of our time is spent educating the abuse victim that it is unwise for her to keep giving the abuser more chances and opening herself up again by trusting her abuser. Abusers are not trustworthy. Sociopaths cannot be trusted. And the victim has no obligation before God to “move toward” her abuser when he “claims to be repentant”. Does Welch not know (no, he doesn’t) that abusers are masters at play-acting repentance? Freedom and healing and (to use a CCEF-favorite word) “redemption” from oppression comes through the victim learning that her abuser cannot be trusted.
What abusers can be trusted to do, based on their long records of conduct towards their victims, is to fake repentance in order to suck their victims back into their reach and then gradually or suddenly switch from Jekyll to Hyde. And the Bible’s advice about dealing with such people is to have nothing to do with them —
But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God — having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people. (2 Timothy 3:1-5 NIV)
Ready for more (from Welch’s article)? —
1) God does not forget (Ps. 10:12; 56:4). Personal trouble does not mean that God has forsaken his people. Rather, the Bible constantly shows that God responds to prayers for deliverance. While we cannot always observe this deliverance immediately, God will most assuredly deliver his people. The story of God’s work in their lives is not over. Therefore, remind victims to keep their eyes open, watching for God’s strong hand in their lives.
So the victim gets reminded to “pray and keep her eyes peeled for God’s deliverance” — while the church can sit on its hypocritical hands, not helping to deliver her by putting her abuser out of the church, implying that she shares the blame for “declaring marital war”, while they “minister” to her oppressor! And preen themselves for being such great leaders by “making the perpetrator understand that the church leadership takes domestic violence very seriously and will act to protect his wife even as they seek to minister to him and hold him accountable.”
By the way: how can you “make” a perpetrator understand anything? And more to the point: perpetrators already understand that domestic abuse is wrong — that’s why they hide and deny most of what they do from the public! They know it’s wrong and they choose to keep doing it. And they are much more skilled at avoiding accountability than most church leaders are at making fast the chains of accountability and blocking the loopholes in the accountability net.
Welch continues —
2) Jesus knows our sufferings. In his own body, he experienced violence at the hands of his own people. In fact, his experience surpasses our own because he suffered even to death. When we see this suffering, it can actually begin to lighten, or outweigh, a woman’s grief.
For the woman who feels forsaken by God, the sufferings of Jesus can be a great comfort. It is a comfort that exceeds the sympathy and comfort extended by other women who have endured similar experiences. At a women’s shelter, a victim of violence will be surrounded by people who understand, but in the throne room of God, she will be in the presence of One who understands perfectly, grieves deeply, and loves completely.
As our team member, Wendell, observes, this is assuming that all suffering that Christians face are for the same reason as Christ’s sufferings, which is not the case. Trying to equate the sufferings of an abused woman with the sufferings of Christ is ludicrous. True, they were both from wicked people; however, Christ’s sufferings were to fulfill prophecy and lead us to salvation (over simplification there). He volunteered for those sufferings by choosing to give up the prerogatives of being God and coming down in the form of man and to be obedient up to death so as to pay the price for our sin. An abuse victim did not volunteer for being abused by her spouse, and that suffering is not going to bring anyone salvation or do anything other than destroy the victim and further enable the abuser.
Right on, Wendell!
It’s true that Jesus knows our sufferings and sympathizes with them, but for Welch to make this point is clammy comfort for victims when he’s been so patronizing and unhelpful to them already. Welch suggests that when victims see Christ’s suffering, “it can actually begin to lighten, or outweigh, their grief”. The afflicted woman will automatically translate this to: “Your suffering isn’t as bad as what Christ suffered. You’re probably making too big a deal of it. Just meditate on Christ’s suffering and you’ll soon see, little woman, how self-centred you’ve been in dwelling on your own pain.” — Maybe we oughta just traipse back to Rome and start conjuring up mental icons of the bleeding wounds of Christ!
From Welch’s article:
3) The Cross provides the timeless evidence of God’s love for his people and his “toughness” with sin. Sin and suffering will always remain a mystery. Neither makes sense in a world that God created as good. Yet it is clear that God’s love, demonstrated to us in Jesus, exceeds the boundaries of our imagination, and his justice leaves observers silenced. In a world where a woman cannot trust the one closest to her, the greatest blessing you can offer to her is the assurance of God’s loving and watchful presence.
You’re on your own, little woman: it’s just you and God. The church pretends to stand with you and deliver justice, but it won’t really. Yet it pats you on the head and reminds you that “God loves you” so make sure you “smile humbly” and “thank your superiors for reminding you of what you must have forgotten”. And if you “don’t smile and show thanks”, well, clearly your “faith isn’t robust enough”!
Now Welch gets even more dangerous in his instruction to victims. Yes, dangerous. Look at this mind-boggling headline —
You teach the oppressed how to disarm the controlling, angry, or violent person
The victim must know how to preempt and respond to ungodly anger. Whether or not the woman returns immediately to her home, she must learn to manifest “a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline” (2 Tim. 1:7). Too often her responses to violence fluctuate between timidity and revenge, revealing both the perpetrator’s ongoing control and his dominance in her life. Instead of fluctuating between these two extremes, wives need to be led in a biblical course that is humble and powerful.
Welch puts the onus on the victim to disarm the abuser. And instead of honouring her responses and interpreting them as resistance — discreet attempts to maintain her dignity in the face of oppression — he blames and guilts her for her responses. What he maligns as her “timidity” is very likely to be the very thing that Welch says she needs to be led to manifest: self-discipline and humility in trying to elicit respectful treatment from her husband. And what he derogates as her “revenge” is likely to be her expressing righteous anger against injustice and her attempt to powerfully resist the mistreatment. But Welch sees none of this; all he sees is that she needs to be led and instructed because she’s doing it all wrong.
And do not forget. In all of this Welch is sending her sooner or later back into the lion’s den. She is on a mission to “redeem” (disarm) her abuser. It is her “divine calling”. She “must not shirk it”. This is the teaching of this “expert” in biblical counseling.
1) When in doubt, confess your sin to the perpetrator. There may be no more powerful response to the sin of others. Everyone knows how difficult it is to confess sin to another person, but to confess it to a perpetrator of violence seems utterly impossible. But a woman who is strong in the Lord does not stand on her own righteousness; rather, she stands on the righteousness of Christ and can therefore confess her own sin. This, of course, does not imply that her actions caused the violence or abuse. She simply confesses sin that God has exposed in her life.
This betrays an amazing level of ignorance regarding the very nature of evil. The mentality of a normal person will appreciate an apology. But that of the abuser is anything but normal. He will take his victim’s confession of “sin” and run with it full field to a touchdown of further abuse. Abusers see apology as a sign of weakness. They are like a savage predator (as is their father the devil) who is now provided with a victim who turns her vulnerable jugular to them, inviting attack. And attack he will. Welch seems to believe that the way to deal with the Devil is to confess our “sins” and “failings” to him. He will then be “so moved with our humility” that “he will repent of his evil ways and we can all live redeemed, happily ever after.” Oh yeah.
That paragraph quoted above, notice once more, includes more of that same single-string plucking — “real abuse necessarily involves physical violence.” That is fundamental to Welch’s thinking.
And, after you’ve confessed your “sin” to the perpetrator according to Welch’s formula —
2) “Then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye” (Matt. 7:5)….
This is the log-speck mix-up. It’s not mere sin-levelling, it’s a diabolical inversion of the true sin situation. The abuser’s sin is the log, a giant telegraph pole log in each of his eyes. The victim’s “sin” is a speck in comparison and it has not caused the marriage breakdown, and her confessing it to him will be likely only to give him more grenades to throw at her and more ways to slander her to others. But Welch doesn’t care, he’s too intent on giving pious advice to think about whether the metaphor fits the case.
….For some women, confrontation may be harder than confession. It may be easier for them to assume they deserve sinful treatment than take a stand against sin. Or they may be afraid that confrontation will lead to divorce….
The woman is deemed wrong if she’s afraid that confrontation may lead to divorce, but her fear of being divorced is not allayed by telling her that it is not a sin to divorce for abuse!
….But a way to love the perpetrator is to clearly portray his sin and its consequences. Minimizing or ignoring it can be spiritually deadly — for either party. Such confrontation should be done in the presence of another person.
3) Forgive quickly, but don’t allow the perpetrator’s request for forgiveness to be the end of the discussion. Reconciliation begins when the perpetrator asks for forgiveness. In situations where there has been an outbreak of violence, this violence uncovers a larger pattern of demandingness, control, and arrogance. Such patterns should never be swept aside with the words, “Will you forgive me?” The flesh and the devil thrive when hurts and sins are kept in the dark. Therefore, one way a wife can love is to let her husband know the consequences of his sin in her life. This is not done to hurt; it is done to heal. [Emphasis original.]
Can’t you just imagine what will happen when the victim confronts the abuser in the presence of another person like an Ed Welch-cloned counselor or pastor? (If you can’t, click here for some survivor’s stories.) The abuser will probably “ask for forgiveness” because he knows that will “begin“ the process of “reconciliation” and will win brownie points with the pastor. The woman is then meant to tell her husband the consequences of his sin in her life — but who looks after her safety after this interview when the abuser later retaliates on her for telling some of the truth?
4) Speak with gentleness and love. In a world where advanced technology is power, we often overlook the power of words. Words, however, can disarm angry people. It can be a great encouragement for women to know that “a gentle answer turns away wrath” (Prov. 15:1). Although the woman is not the cause of the violence, she nevertheless has power to subdue it with humility, gentleness, and love….
….God reserves unique glimpses of himself for those who have been oppressed, and he gives power to shake off the twin enemies of timidity and rage.
So there it is. Welch over-generalises the “gentle answer” proverb and tells the woman she has the power to subdue and disarm her abuser by speaking to him in humility, gentleness and love. But hang on, she’s probably been attempting to do that for years already and it never stopped the abuser wielding his power and control! If she displays humility and gentleness, what’s the chance she gets criticised by Welch for showing “timidity”? And if she gets angry about the injustice the abuser has done to her, or the patronizing way in which the counselor is treating her, she’ll be criticized for “displaying rage”. She’s in a Catch 22.
The reality is: if she gives pearls of love to her abuser, he, being the swine he is, will trample them underfoot and turn again and rend her. Welch’s imagination about the woman’s power is just that: his imagination. He needs to come to reality and stop thinking he has all the answers.
Ed Welch, you need to repent of these teachings. You need to publicly recant what you have taught here for the glory of God and for the sake of the oppressed. We call you to it. And to the OPC, we make this plea, take this article down from you website and begin to learn the truth about this wickedness of abuse. A great place to start that journey of learning is right here at A Cry for Justice.
1 This teaching by Ed Welch has been published in many formats; it keeps reincarnating. The article on the OPC site is slightly condensed version of what has appeared in other formats. It formed part of “Queries and Controversies: Helping the Victim of Domestic Violence” in the Journal of Biblical Counseling, Jan 01, 1997 (link). It was also part of the CCEF booklet Domestic Abuse: How to Help, by Welch, Tripp and Powlison. Our readers may recall that Peacemakers Ministry recommends that CCEF booklet — see I wish I knew this about Peacemakers before I went, part 5 of Persistent Widow’s story.
And it’s not the only dangerous teaching by Ed Welch on domestic abuse. He has also written Living With an Angry, Abusive, or Violent Spouse which was published on the Family Life website and which we likewise do not recommend.
[February 20, 2023: Editors’ notes:
—For some comments made prior to February 20, 2023 that quoted from the post, the text in the comment that was quoted from the post might no longer be an exact match.
—For some comments made prior to February 20, 2023 that quoted from the post, the text in the comment that was quoted from the post might no longer be found in the post.
If you would like to compare the text in the comments made prior to February 20, 2023 that quoted from the post to the post as it is now (February 20, 2023), click here [Internet Archive link] for the most recent Internet Archive copy of the post.]
35 thoughts on “Ed Welch Has Abuse All Wrong, and so does the Orthodox Presbyterian Church (OPC)”
Thank God for your watchful eye to see the ignorant and bad advice that is out there for abuse victims. I was in the torture chamber and I can assure you Mr. Welch has it all wrong – dead wrong. Any abuse victim that heeds his advice will step into very, very dangerous territory. What is so sad that by the time an abuse victim reaches out for help she is already confused, exhausted, crushed in spirit and beaten down emotionally, mentally and spiritually and so Mr. Welch’s comments bring only more of the same. Welch should be ashamed of himself. I have already contacted my church with this and if they have any of his books in their library, hopefully they will be removed.
Anonymous, re the comment you recently submitted, we have done what you asked us to do. 🙂
At least one of the pastors I went to for help during the 20+ years I was enduring every sort of abuse (short of physical violence) had been “trained” in this type of “Biblical counseling”. I can’t begin to enumerate the multiple ways that so-called counseling harmed me and exacerbated the abuse, empowering and making my abuser bolder. The pastor’s insistence that all “marital conflict” is a 50 – 50 situation was so humiliating and degrading, it brings tears to my eyes even now, over 15 years later.
This teaching is dangerous to the point of being criminal.
Jeremiah 23:9 reads:
We can apply this verse to Welch’s erroneous teaching.
Jeremiah 23:1-6 sheds light on God’s response to prophets / priests / shepherds who did not tend to the sheep as He prescribed, who “walk in lies”, and who “strengthened the hands of evildoers, so that no one turns back from his wickedness….” (Jeremiah 23:14).
In 23:16, God Himself said —
To discern what is truth is key. If a pastor is preaching lies and twisting Scripture in such a way that it “strengthens the hands of evildoers” (like aiding and abetting abusers and casting the targets aside), it’s time to go find another church.
Yes, BSD, “discern what is truth” and where truth is properly applied. I love these passages. Job’s comforters spoke some truth mixed with some lying assumptions that served the enemies ambition to crush the man. They are an example of false comfort that only comforts those that are indifferent to the pain of the victim that asked for help.
I relate to the activity that happens when the victim reaches out to the church for help in her toxic marriage. I am a survivor of this kind of a evil activity! Not only is my spouse an abuser. So is the leadership I thought was for me.
Oh, how my eyes have been opened to the tactics of Satan. I stood up to the pastor and his evil minions. Presented the truth in links for him to read. He then brought his wife — and get this! His staff [went] on to try and intimidate me. 😳 His comeback quote was….”So your saying we are sinners?”
To get any words of repentance from them or my spouse is totally in God’s hands. I have a question — When is it appropriate to expose the sin of abuse to my kids? They side with the church and my abuser. Without God’s help through this valley of death I would be dead. Praise goes to my redeemer!!
We have at least one post on that question. I’m too busy to search for the link(s) right now but you might be able to find them by searching our tags menu or our Children and Extended Family category.
Here are links to a couple of posts that may help answer your question, “When is it appropriate to expose the sin of abuse to my kids?”
When the kids blame the victim too
A child who was allied to the abuser but then came back to the non-abusive parent – a post by Cindy Burrell
Since you said that your children have sided with the church and your abuser I assume they are older. This post may be helpful:
Restoring Relationship with Estranged Children
Thanks, Twbtc. 🙂
So, so true.
Maybe if Ed Welch was on the receiving end of abuse for 20 / 30 / 40 years (by someone stronger, with control of the $, etc.) he MIGHT finally get it — that abuse is evil and is one-sided.
I feel that that quote “abusers see apology as a sign of weakness” is so powerful to me because it applies to any relationship with an abusive person. I have found that some people who hurt you will then use your humble apology for anything you did in reaction to their evil as a reason for further abuse and put-downs. They will use your admission of imperfection as a reason to excuse their appalling callousness towards you, who they blame AS the problem not just FOR any problems.
Did my comment go through? Replied not to long ago. Thanks!
Yes, your reply did go through, and thank you for commenting. (You will notice I edited the layout just for clarity sake.)
And as a reminder to our new commenters — all comments are moderated, which means that each comment is read and possibly edited for safety and clarity sake, before being made public. We do this for the safety of our commenters. We want this blog to be a safe place for commenters — a place free of abusers and, as much as possible, triggering language.
To moderate each comment means that a comment may not be posted immediately. We try to post comments as soon as possible, but each of our moderators are volunteers with their own work and life schedules, so sometimes a comment is held in moderation for a period of time.
We appreciate each comment. Being able to speak about our abusive experience is not only part of the individual’s recovery process, but the stories help others’ recover as well. So, thank you for commenting. And thank you for understanding our moderation process.
A sadly neglected spiritual gift in the body of Christ is discernment. It is evident here that what Welch lacks in discernment he covers up for in abuse-enabling words. In a disgraceful and utterly shameful way he applies Scriptures where they don’t apply, making the Word of God a pointed spear that he shoves through the heart of someone already knocked on the ground. I wish men like this could be a fly on the wall in the bedroom of a cowering 5 year old as her / his mother is screaming while being beaten in the other room.
My mother got this this sort of advice and her children grew up terrorized, with emotional and health consequences none of her false spiritual advisers could bear themselves. My brother subsequently became an abuser, the entire family is fractured and shattered. My children were subjected to the same as I married 2 abusers without ever hearing any so-called man of God say “this treatment of you is heinous to God, escape, we will help”. Instead this horrific advice “Open your heart to an abuser and trust” replaces even a modicum of basic common sense. No wonder the non-Christian world often despises Christians. People like Welch with their dripping acid piety make atheists out of the children enduring hellish violence-laced homes.
To this day there are still passages in the Bible, as much as I am a Bible-lover that were used as a club to spiritually abuse me by those “spiritual” abuse enablers. Things changed for me when I asked God why He wasn’t healing my hopelessly depraved “marriage”. I heard “I gave you legs, and the power to walk, walk away”. That was God’s advice to me and not one pastor would ever say something that practical and wise.
Jeff, I continue to marvel at the amazing ability you have to find words to address this sort of thing. As for me, the unwisdom in Welch’s advice just leaves me paralyzed and speechless. “Would you like to eat me for dinner?” said the lamb to the wolf, because her shepherd told her it would be a good idea to offer. Gad.
I wholeheartedly concur with their critique of this superficial treatment of domestic abuse. One important point that stands to be made is that men are not the only perpetrators of such abuse. I grew up in a household where my mother consistently terrorized not only my father but my siblings and I as well. There was almost no physical harm. However, the emotional and verbal abuse were overwhelming. My father was constantly attacked as being a failure, not a real man, and worthless. She would begin as soon as he came in the door, and even call or text him at work to do the same. Contempt and hatred were the constant undertone.
That attitude spilled over into her relationships with her children as well. There is a vast difference discipline and abuse. We would often serve as her emotional punching bags. Anything we did or didn’t do could be used against us. I woke up each day feeling as though I couldn’t get out of bed because I was sleeping in a minefield. There was always fear and uncertainty about what we would do to earn our next bout of screaming.
She would say that she just needed to “vent” and that we all needed to “validate her emotions”. I certainly understand the necessity and benefit of periodic catharsis. Where this became problematic was that she never ran out of anger to vent. Over time, I observed that she would actually create scenarios to support her anger. She repeatedly would refuse proffered help or would take on extraneous obligations; these in turn generated high levels of stress that played itself out on everyone around her, namely her family. We were then told that she was a “slave” and that no one cared about her or was grateful for what she did.
Confrontation about these patterns was and has not been productive. Whether it was my father, myself or my siblings, her own siblings (one of whom is a pastor), female marriage counselors, and other women in our church, there was an aggressive denial of any wrongdoing. She would attempt to use either: (a) guilt, (b) ad hominem attacks; (c) threats against the confronter; or (d) threats of self-harm.
I distinctly recall a conversation we had just after I had started professional school. We were alone in the car and I was being careful to keep a calm, measured tone. I was addressing some of this behavior and various specific instances that had recently occurred (including her assertion that if she could do everything over again she would have kept her job and not had children). After a couple minutes of hearing me out, she began screaming so loudly that I flinched. Her response: “What do you want me to do? Cut my arm off? Maybe I’ll just cut my head off, then you’ll be happy!” Things have sadly not progressed much beyond that.
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And yes, we agree that there are also female abusers. We usually refer to the abuser as male as research shows that the majority of abusers are male and our readership is primarily female. But I have no doubt that your mother was an abuser and the effects of that abuse on your father and on you and your siblings are no less just because she was female. Thank you for sharing your story!!
Wholehearted – I am sorry you have suffered so much from your mother’s abuse. 😦
Have you heard of “the drama triangle”? It is where someone adopts the role of persecutor or rescuer or victim. It is also common for someone to move from one role to the next. It sounds like your mum is stuck in the drama triangle moving between “rescuer” (taking on the extra tasks, etc.) to “victim” (saying “I’m a slave and they’re so ungrateful.”) to “persecutor” (taking it out in abusive tirades on husband and children). It may be worth reading up on as there are a lot of understandings to gain in how to relate to someone like that and also how to not get drawn into the drama triangle with them. I’ve found it useful in my relationships and thought you may too. 🙂
Wholehearted, those with mothers that “needed” to vent (and vent and vent and vent) and used their children as the recipient of endless toxic vents can relate to your story. I remember being flooded with adrenaline and literally trembling at the sound of my mother’s voice. In my case it was confusing to be raised by such a mother and then have a father that was physically violent. She used her children as therapist, the problem was she unloaded things we were far to young to hear and she never in her life healed from any of her lists of bitter complaints.
In the grand scheme I found the physical violence of my father not as scary as the unpredictable emotional violence of my mother. Both were terrifying. A caveat is that some survivors of all this, marry an abuser who then turns the tables and claims that the battered woman is the abusive one, or aggressor. Therefore knowing that women can be truly abusive while knowing that the claims they are is a familiar tactic of a blame shifting batterer makes getting to the truth a call for discernment.
While women are very capable of being incredibly disruptive and abusive in a home, sometimes their abusers get a lot of mileage out of telling a non-abusive woman she is abusive. An abuser can heap up shame and guilt when in fact, it’s a manipulative ploy to wound someone with a sensitive conscience. Are women capable of incredible damage spiritually, emotionally and physically of their family? Yes. Can they be the primary abuser in a home? Yes. Has it ever happened that the actual perpetrator shifted blame on the victim and found children and others to affirm the blame? Yes. I’ve seen all of this.
I’d add too that women broken down by years of emotional and physical battery can become fairly unhinged and irrational at some point. It is a challenge to discern what is going on, what point to have compassion and what point to recognize the person is sociopathic and can only harm. In that case, a decision to stop the madness by ending a relationship even with a mother is sometimes called for. I had to do so to heal.
I’m sad to say, if you’re waiting for Ed Welch or any of his “biblical counseling” ilk to apologize for such heinous teaching, you’ll be waiting a long, long while. These packs of wolves are “experts” because they declared themselves to be experts, even (in many cases) granting themselves fake degrees to give their false teachings more “authority.” Virtually none of these “counselors” have ever held a state-sanctioned license to counsel. And their entire counseling paradigm rests on a graceless, shame-based theology that teaches female “subordination” and “spiritual male superiority”. Gag.
This is so true. I was becoming suicidal near the end before he abandoned me and he never even raised his voice or called me names. Ex withheld all warmth, information, and money from me and it bled my spirit dry.
All I can say is, Amen. My experience as well.
From the ACFJ critique of Welch’s article above:
it is evident that this advice should not only be applied to the domestic abuser but to the church that endorses Ed Welch and Nouthetic counseling. If you are in the OPC or PCA especially, leave before you are further abused. The numbers of stories coming in about how they themselves abuse those who come to them confirm that they cannot be trusted. Except in rare exception they are a church system collectively lacking a conscience and [are] abusive. They are the same as your abuser in satanic ecclesiastical form.
Let’s judge the fruits of this type of church and conclude that they are not from God by applying this Scripture to them!
Isn’t it just like a minimizer, to use the term “ugly anger” instead of “abusive anger” or just “abuse”?
In a booklet I read by him, he also stated that if a woman had been physically abused by her husband, and IF there remained an ongoing threat of violence, then she could take a break from the marriage and get away for a bit. So, she can only get away, if after she has been beaten once, the threat remains. If there is no threat, then I guess she just takes the first beating in stride. Ho-hum.
Mr. Welch minimizes throughout his entire booklet(s). The uneducated will always make little of what they do not know nor understand. They even do this with the Word of God. They make little where the commands are too constraining for them personally. Commands like quoted in this blog post — “have nothing to do with them” or “do not even eat with them”. Yet when it comes to safety and separation or divorce from an abuser, an issue they know little or nothing about, suddenly the issue is huge to them. Interesting.
Once again, Welch eloquently levels the playing field, in an almost emotionally abusive way himself, and makes the victim equal to the abuser in every way. Coddling the sinner — victimizing the righteous. He makes no division between good and evil, but continues the ongoing blend of righteousness and unrighteousness we all too often see, defying God and His Word in everyway that it can be defied by his smooth talk and cheap counsel to women he has never met and probably never really intends to meet. Repentance I assume to Mr. Welch, looks much the same as it does to others who do not know or understand God or abuse. It simply looks like a simplistic admission and apology — which by the way — is never true repentance, no matter what the sin may be.
This sickens me as it continues to hold women victim to men and beneath the level of life that Christ so beautifully brought women to. We are equal Mr. Welch — can you deal with that?
This stuff is just so stupid. In my situation the real root problem was that my ex required that I worship him. I refused to do that, I could not do that, because I will worship God alone. That was the cause for the “war”. Do these people value marriage above God?
My faith was already very, very strong to be able to stand up to the sustained persecution, betrayal and violence that I was subjected to. I stood up to one very bad man and I have stood up to all this nonsense from so-called church leaders too. They are the ones who need their faith strengthened.
I know someone in the OPC who was treated just this way. It was a real tragedy. I can’t write more without revealing private details. I believe pastors need much more training in handling abuse, grief, mental illness and suicide. People are running churches who know not a thing about people, just a lot about the Bible. BUT much not really how the Bible applies.
I am so glad that this blog appreciates that abuse can be non-physical too. I have seen Christian sites that only seem to address physical abuse in a marriage, or physical and sexual abuse when it comes to children but emotional, verbal, and spiritual is rarely mentioned. I guess because it is the most common type and the church would have a lot more divorce on its hands if it were taken seriously. And the churches idolise and idealise marriage. Don’t get me wrong marriages where there is unselfish love and respect are a beautiful thing and very praise-worthy. If only the church would accept that any marriage that falls short of safe and loving is NOT praise-worthy and shouldn’t be maintained just so the church looks good.
I have seen Christian websites that say a woman must only deprive her husband of lovemaking as agreed by him and the Lord. Well I knew a lady in an emotionally and verbally abusive Christian marriage who wasn’t allowed to say “no” to sex if she had flu symptoms or was exhausted etc. He would get angry with her and wear her down telling her she was making excuses. So she would give in and do it to keep him happy.
Is it possible that this is rape? Or some kind of sexual assault. She is very afraid of him. We have been to shops or somewhere together and if she is late she panics that she doesn’t have the tea ready, etc. I told her I thought she was being abused but she told me she isn’t. She says “I don’t think I’m a battered wife. He never hits me”.
[Paragraph break added to enhance readability. Editors.]
I don’t believe in trigger warnings, but I am about to describe the night that I still think of as the end of my childhood.
When I was thirteen there was a new girl in my OPC congregation, around my age. I never got to know her super well, but she was a blast to hang out with, and we were friends. She had been molested earlier that year, but was fortunately no longer in contact with her abuser. But then one night, he showed up at evening service. My pastor tried to get her to talk to and forgive the child molester. I don’t know if this was spontaneous or planned. Fortunately one of the Elders put a stop to it.
I was mostly an eavesdropper to this situation, learning only the details my closest friends were too frustrated to hide. Our congregation emphasized purity and innocence, and friendship as we understood it often meant sheltering each other rather than sharing. I will never forget seeing her cry though.
As an adult, the few people I have told ask me why I never told anyone who could help, not even my own family. But at the time I felt like I had sinned by finding out about it. And now I do not want to bring up a painful memory for the other girls who were there that night, even though I worry about how this pastor might be hurting the next generation of girls in that church. I don’t even know if contacting the Presbytery would be worth it, a decade later when the other girls are trying to move on. After all, what is the role of a bystander? Should I take responsibility or try to forget? How should I cope with an injustice that didn’t happen to me?
In a morbid way, I find it comforting that this pattern of victim blaming and horrendous misinterpretation of Scripture is a denomination-wide problem, and not limited to the congregation that I now think of as a misogynistic cult. On the other hand, these teachings are of the devil, and I wish there was something I could do to prevent further abuse. Any ideas?
So long as the OPC seeks to be a city of refuge to both perpetrator and their victims, they will continue the cycles of abuse that have been tolerated for over a decade.
We had multiple incidents of sexual abuse in our tiny church. Not only did the Session (led by a confessed adulterer whose own family had criminal sexual abuse charges), call for silence as they “counseled” a predatory family physician, they allowed the same pervert to sit in church with his unsuspecting victim. It was “wrong” to have “him miss church”. Their primary concern was “redeeming the sinner”. It took nine months for them to ex-communicate him. Even then, they expressed concern for his family. The victim and her family were secondary.
The OPC published another article in which they lay out their philosophy. I hope young families will read it before entrusting their children to such a system. The damage is unimaginable.
Domestic Violence: What’s the Church to Do? [Internet Archive link], by George Scipione from the Orthodox Presbyterian Church.
That article by Dr George Scipione is full of the typical, dangerous mixture of teaching we hear from so-called leaders and many so-called Christian counselors.
Here is the most egregious part of the article:
Scipione assumes the abuser is a Christian. He pushes the “reconciliation” line. He says that divorce is only to be considered in the most extreme cases. He tells churches to give safe houses to abusers as well as to victims — other than that he says nothing at all about the safety of victims so he fails to prioritize the safety of victims. He engages in sin levelling. He implies that victims contribute to the problem.
At the start of his article, Scipione gives three anecdotal cases, two of which recycle some of the unhelpful myths (false stereotypes) about abusers. In one anecdote the abuser got violent because he lost control when he was “under a lot of stress”. In another anecdote, the abuser is “a working class oaf who drinks a lot” (it’s true that some abusers fit that description, but many don’t).
And to top it off, Scipione recommends the following dangerous things as further resources:
—Ed Welch’s article “Helping the Victims of Domestic Violence”
—Paul Tripp and David Powlison’s article “Helping the Perpetrators of Domestic Violence”
—Jay Adams’ book Competent to Counsel
—CCEF’s magazine, Journal of Biblical Counseling
TWBTC, have we got the OPC listed on our Hall Of Blind Guides? If not, could you please put it there and give a link to the above comment by Savedbygrace for evidence. Thanks. 🙂
Yes, will do!
3 / 5 of the friends I had when I was growing up in the OPC had their families investigated and / or had been reported for child abuse and domestic abuse. It’s a serious problem in that denomination, and I believe that the pastors and Elders enable it with their Complementarian theology and the “spare the rod spoil the child” approach.
Thanks, Anonymous Turtle, I believe you. Three fifths = more than half. When an organisation is so infested with abusers and enablers, it’s very very hard to drag it into the daylight where the germs will die.
I also think you’re spot on about the OPC’s wooden complementarianism and “spare the rod and spoil the child” being drivers and maintainers of the OPC’s toxic culture.
Ironically, my favourite hymnbook, Trinity Psalter Hymnal, is jointly produced by the OPC (Orthodox Presbyterian Church) and the URCNA (United Reformed Churches in North America). Having said that, I am pretty sure I would be triggered by — and avoid — that hymnbook if I had been a regular attender at either of those congregations in my childhood or during the period when I was being abused by my first husband.