A Cry For Justice

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

How the Threat of God’s Wrath is Used to Silence Abuse Victims

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.


In following the story of Marie Notcheva over at Wartburg Watch, I read the following comment by a “friend” of Marie’s on Facebook. I decided to highlight this comment here in a post because THIS tactic of threatening God’s wrath for exposing evil in a church is really rather common. Here is what this “friend” had to say:

I would be very careful attacking Heritage Bible Chapel. God is VERY clear that the only reason that divorce is permitted is because of sexual immorality aka adultery or that the man is not a born again Christian and he chooses to leave the marriage. But the same is true for the wife. Romans 7:2-3 I LOVE you Marie and your family, but attacking the church that was trying to guide you biblically isn’t safe.

“Be very careful…attacking the church isn’t safe.” That is a threat. The commenter denied it when confronted, but it is indeed a threat. It is a plain attempt to enforce the ungodly, dark “code of silence” that churches, church leaders, and church members so often work to enforce. It covers for evil. It is the ally of evil.

This particular tactic goes even beyond the devilish device of charging the victim who tells with “gossip.” Here you have the claim that to expose evil in a church openly is to incur that wrath of God upon you for saying anything negative about “his” church. “You better keep looking up, Marie, because a lightning bolt is headed your way. Oh, and I only tell you this because I love you.” Yeah, right. Love. You bet.

This commenter’s language is filled with other abuse tactics as well. Consider the word “attacking.” That charges any victim who brings wickedness out into the open as being guilty of “attacking” in some mean, destructive manner. Well, we ARE attacking these kinds of things, but it is the attack God calls us to —

For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete. (2 Cor 10:3-6)

Notice the berating, dismissive phrase “God is VERY clear…” about reasons for divorce. What arrogance! If Scripture on this subject were so VERY clear, then why is there so much disagreement among Christians about the doctrine of divorce? Of course we believe the source of the problem rests in the failure of so many Bible “teachers” to consider the full context and character of God as they handle the Scriptures. Forget those things and you will come up with these wooden, merciless applications that bind rather than set free. But here is a person who has the audacity to announce that she and her “church” possess absolute truth which everyone else is bound to follow and if they do not, well, once again you better not be holding a golf club up in the air in a rainstorm. ZAP!

And then you have the cult-language of “attacking the church that was trying to guide you biblically isn’t safe.” Whoa! That’s a devilish masterpiece of condensed accusations: attacking, trying to guide you…isn’t safe. Pow, pow, pow. I mean, how is that kind of tactic any different at all from the brainwashing, threatening, crazy-making methods of your typical cult? It isn’t. It emanates from the same source down under (not OZ, Barbara 🙂 ).

There. Exposed. It’s raining outside. I think I will go out and listen to the thunder. No fear 🙂


Wartburg Watch now has a total of nine posts dedicated to Marie’s story.  We encourage you to read the entire story starting with part 1 of Marie Notcheva’s story.   TWW’s coverage of the whole saga was instrumental in getting HBC to back down. Links below:

Part II: Heritage Bible Chapel Admonishes a Former Member to Repent or Else…

Part III: Did Southern Baptist and Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminaries Replicate a Hotel California at Heritage Bible Chapel in Princeton MA?

Part IV: Why Won’t Heritage Bible Chapel Let Marie Go Peaceably?

Part V: It’s Heritage Bible Chapel’s Drop Dead Date, Marie’s Father Pleads “Stand your ground, Marie”

Part VI: How to Research and Avoid Churches Like Heritage Bible Chapel, Charles River Church, or Southshore Bible Church

Part VII (when the Elders finally “released” me): Heritage Bible Chapel Elders Channel Pharaoh and let Marie go

Part VIII (when it hit front page of local newspaper): Marie Notcheva’s Story of Church Abuse Featured in Sentinel and Enterprise News

Part IX: Church Discipline A Difficult Task — guest post by Todd Wilhelm



  1. Sandra

    Maybe the friend needs to read and seriously consider Eph 5:11

    Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.

    • Hi, I changed your screen name to Sandra, for your safety. If you want us to change it to something else, just email The woman behind the curtain: twbtc.acfj@gmail.com — she will be more than happy to assist. 🙂

      And welcome to the blog. 🙂 We encourage new readers to check out our New Users’ Info page as it gives tips for how to guard your safety while commenting on the blog.

  2. Believer

    Thank you for this post. A friend I considered a sister in Christ said the same thing to me (“Be careful…”) when I was questioning / pointing out the error in the theology taught by her (my former) church. This church uses Starting Point (Andy Stanley’s materials) for new “believers.” This “ministry” material explicitly says: “The Christian faith isn’t about what Jesus said before he died. It’s about what happened after he died: he rose from the dead.” Talk about a truly heretical statement mixing truth with outrageous falsehood. This friend serves as a leader in this ministry. I do not understand how she can do this. How can any true believer support the statement “the Christian faith is not about what Jesus said before He died”?!?!?!? And then tell me to “be careful” when I point out the severe error??? So sobering to consider, in light of your insights provided here!!

    • Starting Point and Andy Stanley sound like the kind of ministry which Paul the Apostle would pronounce a curse on.

      But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed! As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed! (Gal 1:8-9 NASB1995)

  3. Laurie

    You go, Barb!!!!!!

  4. BigSisterMama

    Often, when people—-or at least anyone trying to control others—-says that something is not “safe”, they actually mean that they feel umcomfortable about it. They mean that THEY are not safe.

    Example: my ex continually insists that the current legal situation where I have been given the power by the courts to protect my children from his abuse is “not safe”. What he means is, he is not in control, so he feels uncomfortable.

  5. TruthBknown

    I left a Christian community because I tried to tell them about the spiritual and criminal problems that I saw, however, I was discredited. There were similar problems in the place I’ve moved to, however much darker and intense and not being resolved as well. Once the verbal abuse and triggers began, I was reaping the damaging effects, however the church taught submission to sin and there was no help. The world knows this causes dissociation.

    God never said a woman had to stay in a mentally or physically abusive marriage and when you are under this mind control [it’s difficult to] get out on your own. Add to this if doctor is giving you meds for issues you didn’t see them for. One morning husband and children gone and I’m feeling uneasy. I call the Pastor and he says let me know how you make out. Then police come to escort me to court, then mental health. … [It is a sin to] disobey God by traumatizing and trashing the women and children. May the church repent.

  6. A

    I used to work with domestic violence centers and there are a few stories that haunt me. One center told me that one of the best places to go in town for working used appliances was run by a church. However, they always cautioned women about going there due to the awful things said to some of the women, including having one woman being told that she was going to hell for divorcing her husband (even though the husband was abusing her!). This church had an opportunity to reach these women for Christ and instead blew it spreading lies that are not even remotely biblical.

    • Marie O'Toole

      Basically my experience.

      • Hi Marie O’Toole, because my time is so limited, I don’t follow The Wartburg Watch.
        Is there a third post there about your story? If so, can you please give us the link? Thanks.

  7. JesusmyJoy

    Thanks for posting this. I had seen these same tactics used when we tried to speak up about a friend we saw being controlled, abused, and almost died. We were the ones told we were “attacking, going against the scriptures by taking up the offenses of another, shaming the name of Christ, being influenced by the Enemy, and in danger of losing the life of Christ in us”. Yet, in the same conversation or letter, there was also flattery along with these charges and threats.

    • Rebecca Davis

      Ugh to all of that.

      Going against the scriptures by taking up the offenses of another.

      That concept of not taking up offenses is NOwhere in the scriptures, actually — it’s pure Bill Gothard.

      Shaming the name of Christ

      –by standing up for another? Rather, it’s exactly what Christ would do. You’re doing well to call this for the evil that it is.

      • JesusmyJoy

        I agree, throughout the scriptures we are called to stand up for the weak and downtrodden as Jesus did and does. Those who said these things to us were heavily involved with Gothardism for years before moving on to Doug Phillips. I have just ordered two copies of your book “Untwisting Scriptures” and look forward to reading it and praying about who to share copies with.

      • Rebecca Davis

        That’s awesome, JMJ! I pray they’ll be a help to others.

  8. Brother Maynard

    One thing that stood out to me while I read the highlighted post here was this. If the man is an unbeliever and HE chooses to leave the marriage then he can. But you, the ever submissive and proper wife that you should be don’t have that option, only he does. Really? Tell that to every abused woman that has taken more garbage from a man than she should have in the first place, I’m sure that every single one of them will say, yup, if only I had been more of a doormat he wouldn’t have done x, y, or z……

    • Thanks Brother Maynard, and welcome to the blog. 🙂

  9. Rebecca Davis

    Yes, I’m all too familiar with the “attacking” accusation used when you’re simply trying to tell the truth about a situation, a person, a group, or an institution. Even if you’re using extremely objective, factual language, you are “attacking” if it’s saying something against what someone else thinks should be protected. There are a lot of other choice accusations that go along with that (“gossip,” “hurting the cause of Christ,” “witch hunt,” and more, most of which have been ably addressed through this blog).

  10. Dale Ingraham @ Speaking Truth In Love Ministries
  11. Marie O'Toole

    Thank you all very much. You’ve nailed it. I just noticed the “friend” (a girl less than half my age) has Unfriended me on FB. Guess the (inconvenient) Truth hurts.

    • Less than half your age, yet she had felt she had the wisdom and experience to admonish you. No doubt she felt that confident because she had heard her so many Christians and pastors and elders use that kind of line to admonish ‘errant sheep’.

      I hope one day she wakes up to the false teaching and comes out of the cultish churches into the true liberty of Christ.

  12. debby

    Just absolutely excellent, Jeff. I have found that people who use this tactic seem to think that God’s “wrath” is applied to anyone THEY think doesn’t have sound doctrine. They act as if God is their own personal mafia debt collector, sent out at their behest, to strong arm the weak and vulnerable who aren’t “toeing the line” (the line THEY decide needs toeing, that is). And those with “hearts toward God,” who really are trying to live a life pleasing to Him, succumb to the doubts in their own hearts (“maybe they are right. I AM an imperfect sinner, after all, so they certainly COULD be right”), that are a natural part of being an “imperfect human” and are sucked into this evil vortex. It is shameful. Fortunately, God sees it all, and has faithful foot soldiers at ACFJ who shout the truth to those of us who will listen and pass it on. Blessings to you and Barbara and your team!!!

  13. KayE

    It seems to me that the wider evangelical church shows a great deal of cult-like behaviour. Their response to abuse is just one of the areas where dissenters are punished.
    If you speak out about abuse within the evangelical system, it is a real threat to the beliefs that many people have built their lives on. Such as the belief that everyone who says they are Christian must be accepted as being Christian, no matter how bad their actions are. And the belief that everyone inside the evangelical church is inherently a good person while all the bad people are on the outside.
    I don’t go around talking about abuse very much. But if it does comes up, even people I thought were friends have tried to silence me for speaking the truth. When I refuse to back down they insult me, discredit me, shun me and write me off as amoral and faithless.
    That sort of cult-think isn’t confined to one church or even a group of churches, it’s almost everywhere.

    • Jeff Crippen

      KayE – Yes, you are right on the mark here. I find myself thinking the very same things about the visible church every day. My entire attitude toward what claims to be the church has radically been changed in the past 6 years or so, mostly because of our experiences in this ministry exposing abusers in churches. When pastors and professing Christians consistently refuse to hear the voice of the Good Shepherd, then we must conclude that they are not of His flock because of what He very plainly teaches us in John 10. They follow a stranger’s voice, but not His. I have concluded that much if not most of the true flock of Christ is increasingly being found “outside the temple” rather than in it. And based on the history of the church recorded for us in Scripture, we should not really be surprised that this is the case. It does surprise us however because we have been duped by the cult for so long.

  14. NobleWoman

    “Threatening God’s wrath”. Being told “God is going to slap you upside the face” … from “godly” person. Threatening??? Felt threatened. Interpreted as being threatened. Am I misinterpreting? Said with such malevolence and contempt in the voice and on the face.
    Searching for answers.

    • Hi NobleWoman, I love the screen name you’ve chosen! Welcome to the blog. 🙂

      I believe you will find lots of answers on this blog, so I encourage you to subscribe and to keep reading, including digging in to all the old posts. You might find it helpful to start by looking at our FAQs page.

      Also, we encourage new readers to check out our New Users’ Info page as it gives tips for how to guard your safety while commenting on the blog.

    • Boy, I missed such a lot of posts! Thanks for letting us know, Marie. 🙂 Now I’ve got a lot more reading to do.

      Please give us a head’s up if in future there are posts on TWW which relate to domestic abuse. That will help us.

  15. TruthSerum

    Awesome truth, once again! I have been scorned in the same way by a relative ….Interestingly, everyone except her supporter avoids her, now.

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