A Cry For Justice

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

Churchcares.com – the SBC’s plan to equip churches to respond to abuse (Part 1, Chris Moles))

The SBC is preparing a video-based curriculum called “Becoming a Church that Cares Well for Abuse”. The teaching team they have chosen includes Chris Moles, Leslie Vernick, Darby Strickland and Diane Langberg.  I have mixed feelings about this.

The primary focus of churchcares.com appears to be sexual abuse, but domestic abuse is being covered as well.

SBC President J.D. Greear has announced:

We’ve not taken reports of abuse in our churches as seriously as our gospel demands, and sometimes even worse, outright ignored or silenced victims. And it’s time we backup our words with actions that demonstrate our commitment to this.

I say AMEN! This was long overdue.

Some of the people chosen by the SBC to produce the curriculum are fantastic (e.g. Rachael Denhollander), but some I have concerns about – especially when it comes to domestic abuse. Before I get into my concerns, let’s hear from Brad Hambrick explaining the project.

Hambrick’s article was first published at the SBC’s Ethics and Religious Liberties Commission and then re-posted at bradhambrick.com. He says:

Over the last six months, at the directive of my senior pastor and president of the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), J.D. Greear, I have had the privilege of leading a team of nine individuals to develop a curriculum to equip churches to provide holistic care in the initial stages of learning about instances of sexual, physical, or emotional abuse.

The name for this curriculum is Becoming a Church that Cares Well for Abuse and will be a free 12-lesson, video-based curriculum. It will be available at churchcares.com so it is accessible for every church, pastor, and ministry leader.

…most pastors have had little, if any, training on pastoral care for abuse. A lack of training can result in ministry leaders being tentative and passive when we need to be active in protecting. We want to equip ministry leaders to respond with excellence when they learn of abuse.

Curriculum Contributors

We wanted members of the teaching team to represent a variety of perspectives and areas of expertise:

  • Survivors
  • Social workers
  • Law enforcement
  • Attorneys who have represented survivors in the legal process
  • Trauma counselors
  • Abuse counselors
  • Batterer interventionists
  • Pastors who have cared for abuse victims well

Based on these criteria, the expert panel for the project is (listed in alphabetical order):

  • Rachael Denhollander (survivor, attorney, advocate)
  • Mika Edmondson (pastor and church planter)
  • Samantha Kilpatrick (attorney, former prosecutor, victim advocate, and church advisor)
  • Diane Langberg (psychologist: trauma and abuse specialist)
  • Chris Moles (pastor, ACBC and IABC certified biblical counselor specializing in batterer intervention)
  • Andrea Munford (police officer and lead detective on Larry Nassar case)
  • Karla Siu (LCSW: Licensed Clinical Social Worker)
  • Darby Strickland (counselor at CCEF, specializing in domestic abuse)
  • Leslie Vernick (MSW, focusing on destructive relationships)

We chose people with decades of experience in caring for survivors. And we wanted people who knew firsthand the weaknesses prevalent in the church’s responses to abuse.

In addition, we chose experts from various fields in order to model listening and constructive conversations with key professionals. We want to help churches become partners with law enforcement and key care providers in their community as they minister to victims. The people selected and style of video production give an example of the fruit that comes from these conversations.

We also chose people from many different denominations because we know that no group of churches or ministries is immune from needing to grow in this area. We wanted to learn from others and have an opportunity for what we’ve learned to be received by the broader evangelical community.
[All emphasis in the original. Click either of the links I gave above to see the outline of the curriculum.]

My thoughts on the panel of experts

I am pleased that the SBC has got Rachael Denhollander and Andrea Munford on the panel of experts.

I don’t know Mika Edmondson or Karla Siu, so I can’t comment about them.

I had not heard of Samantha Kilpatrick, but yesterday Dee Parsons from The Wartburg Watch said on twitter that when there was a cover-up of abuse at her former church, Samantha Kilpatrick was involved in helping the church say there was no coverup.

I do know the other people on the expert panel from their writings and talks – Chris Moles, Leslie Vernick, Darby Strickland and Diane Langberg.

I believe that as a survivor of both childhood sexual and adult domestic abuse, and someone who has been an author, victim-advocate and activist in these areas since 2008, I have some competence to offer an informed opinion about Chris Moles, Leslie Vernick, Darby Strickland and Diane Langberg. Please bear with me; not everything I will say about these people is critical. This will be a two-part series. I’m going to deal with Chris Moles in this post, and the other three people in my next post.

The SBC claim they have chosen people with decades of experience in caring for survivors, and they’ve picked experts from various fields in order to model listening and constructive conversations. But they only chose Americans. And they overlooked victim-survivor-advocates whose primary qualifications are years at the coal face writing and supporting and advocating for victims.

Yes, the SBC are expanding their envelope a bit, but are they really modelling good listening when they ignore people like Jimmy Hinton, Ashley Easter, Christa Brown, Amy Smith from @Watchkeep, the ladies at @Wartwatch, and Brent Detwiler? And please forgive me for all the names I have not mentioned, because there are so many who have been pushing uphill to effect change against so much resistance!

And what are the chances that Brad Hambrick is not even aware of the wealth of resources we have at this website and the work that I have been doing for nearly two decades?

Chris Moles

In 2018 I wrote a series about Chris Moles. I’m glad I wrote it because now it’s available to all who might end up doing the SBC training. They can click my Chris Moles Digest to get a second opinion on what Christ Moles is teaching – with plenty of evidence from Chris’s own words.

Chris Moles is certainly teaching some things about domestic abuse well. He gets the gender issues right in domestic abuse & Christianity and I praise him for that, especially since very few in the complementarian world do get that right.

Chris Moles has heard women’s stories of being abused by men, but what has he done with them? He seems to be falling short on victim-care. He sometimes discredits and mislabels victims of domestic abuse. He sometimes endorses the abuser’s narrative.

Chris Moles is disregarding the Bible’s instructions about how Christians are to respond to abusers. He works from faulty premises. He assumes that addressing the hearts of abusive men is the most effective means of reducing violence against women. He teaches that when biblical counselors work with abusive men they should devote lots of time getting the abusive men to “see their sins” and “have insight into their sins”.

But that is a faulty premise. The abuser –

  • knows what he did
  • knows it was wrong
  • knows he’s making false accusations about his target (his victim).

How do we know that abusers know they are doing wrong?

Abusers know they are doing wrong because they hide from the public the wrong things they do.

Abusers see that their conduct is wrong – they just don’t care. 

For example: when a man is abusing his wife, he knows that his behavior is unacceptable in civilized society. And if he has even a smattering of Christian knowledge, he knows his behavior is sinful. He knows he should stop it. He sees all that. He just choose to continue doing evil.

Abusers not only know they are doing wrong, they use covert and surreptitious tactics to entrap and exploit their victims. And a man who want to abuse an intimate female partner studies his target-woman closely, to work out which tactics of abuse will be most effective in entrapping and controlling her. How the male intimate abuser selects, sets-up & grooms a target woman.

Chris Moles answers the question “Do Abusers Change?” with a mixture of truth & foolishness. I think he has a Play Doh understanding of salvation. He makes weird jokes that are offensive to victims. And he endorses Peacemakers Ministry which has no policy on domestic abuse.

I believe Chris Moles’ teaching will enable churches and biblical counselors to go on neglecting and outright harming victims. He is teaching biblical counselors and churches an elaborate schema which enables them to proclaim ‘there is hope for the abuser’. I predict that most churches who imbibe Chris’s teaching will spout the rhetoric of victim care and safety, but will doggedly go on seeing marriage restoration as the most important goal. And Chris is not doing enough to guard against that outcome. Please look at my Chris Moles Digest for all the documentation I’ve given to prove my points.

Summing up

Brad Hambrick says the SBC picked their teaching team because they “wanted people who knew firsthand the weaknesses prevalent in the church’s responses to abuse.” But the team which the SBC has chosen includes people who are not clearly enough calling out the corruption in the system and the false premises on which the corrupt system is built.

The system designed and supported by the visible church has been infiltrated and contaminated by abusers who portray themselves as Christians. The SBC and other denominations are only at the bare beginning of wrapping their heads around this fact.

***

Other posts in this 5-part series

Pt 2: Darby Strickland is raising awareness about domestic abuse, but…

Pt 3: Diane Langberg is advocating for abuse victims, but…

Pt 4: Why I publish my concerns about various abuse advocates

Pt 5: Leslie Vernick – various responses that domestic abuse victims have to her work.

Further reading

What do you know about programs for abusers? – this is one of our FAQ pages.

As a pastor, what are the most important things for me to know about domestic abuse?

Elizabeth’s Story Trigger Warning – she was married to an SBC pastor who abused her. And was abused spiritually for a long time after she made the brave decision to leave her abuser.

Dear Church: Stop Trying To Convert Wolves — by Jimmy Hinton

For professionals who work in Domestic Abuse – (Don Hennessy series part 8)

12 Comments

  1. April

    I follow Mika Edmonson on Twitter. He’s an African American pastor who describes himself as an advocate for the marginalized. His statements via Twitter seem very solid and victim-focused. It seems encouraging that he would be included on the team (but my knowledge is limited).

  2. Maggie

    I grew up as a Southern Baptist, and I am now a Charismatic. The SBC and many other Protestant churches are overrun with Pharisees who care nothing about protecting anything except their appearance, reputation and running the administrative aspects of the church. The denomination needs to dissolve. They put a bandage on the dying. Many churches need to close to protect the people (Christians and seekers).

  3. anon

    That Chris Moles is on the team — or anyone else who says batterers can be ‘reached’ — is discouraging. The whole Batterers Intervention Programs, Mens Change Programs, (or any other name they go by) is such a trap. It gives false hope to the abused. It gives the abuser the look of being ‘good’ and ‘addressing his violence’ and keeps abusers out of jail.

    And the whole concept is faulty — that a wifebeater is simply flawed in his abusiveness and now in 12 weeks he’ll be given the tools of how to communicate better and how to respect women…..blah, blah, blah. The whole premise of such programs and such BIP counselors (guys like Chris Moles) is contemptible. Jail-time is needed, not counseling for the abusers. It trivializes the evil of the perps and their wickedness.

    Think of what the reaction would be if child rapists would avoid prison time for raping children, because some ‘counseling program’ advertised that it’d help the pedophiles to develop respectful attitudes toward children (instead of predation)….. there’d be an uproar — or at least I’d hope so.

    Same thing with abusers. To involve anyone who purports that abusers can be counseled out of their predation, wickedness, violence, and abuse is going to water-down and neutralize any good that might come out of this group.

    Hennessey started out in his practice counseling abusers but they learned it was worthless of them to do, and ceased doing such, and devoted themselves to helping battered and abused women instead. How long has Chris Moles been doing his program? Hopefully he turns the page and comes over to the acknowledgement of how UNhelpful such programs are. No good comes of them. Wifebeaters might stop their physical violence, usually because they don’t want to go to jail and they’ll continue with their emotional and psychological and verbal violence. And such men are considered ‘changed’ because they just funneled it into the verbal/psychological/emotional abuse. Nonsense.

  4. Stephen O'Dea

    While it appears there is good cause for concern regarding the commitment of some, I think it’s a big step in the right direction.

    The issue seems to me at least, to be about not wanting to disgrace the name of the church involved, and so there is a great reluctance to even talk about the issue. I’d be happy to share this in my own church if for no other reason than to cause dialogue and resolve to stop hiding from the issue.

  5. Artina

    I wouldn’t be as bothered by (other people contributing to) sub-programs to work with abusers if there was honesty about divorce and separation, that is, if the primary purpose was not restoration of the marriage, but rather a primary purpose of learning honesty and respectful views and actions toward all other people.

    I wouldn’t be bothered by sub-programs for abusers if there were more primary programs for individuals who desired health and safety for themselves and their children. I believe there are more individuals who desire health and safety for themselves and their children than there are abusers who desire mental health for themselves.

    It’s a great manipulation to facilitate programs and teaching in such a way that leaves individual spouses (who haven’t given informed consent to collaborate with the teaching or abuser program) who desire health and safety for themselves and their children within the (physical, emotional, financial and spiritual) reach of a relentless, unrepentant, deceptive abuser.

    • Good points, Artina! And welcome to the blog. 🙂

      Since you mentioned abusers’ mental health, I’d like to mention a fact you may not know. Research shows that men who abuse their intimate partners have no higher rate of mental illness than the the overall population of men. However, if a man has a mental illness AND abuses his partner, the risk to the partner is higher — i.e., that abuser is more dangerous, the target tends to be at higher risk.

      Here are our posts about mental illness in abusers.

      If you were meaning character disorder in abusers, I agree with you! But the kinds of character disorders abusers have are fairly unresponsive to mental health treatment.

      We like to 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.

      And after reading the New Users’ Info page, you might like to look at our FAQ page.

      • Artina

        Thanks for the links and information. I am not an expert on categories of mental health or character disorders, so I appreciate your pointing out how this site separates the two. Also, I’m not officially trained in domestic violence advocacy, although I’ve been through my own stuff and quite a bit of counseling and journeying. Several close friends or relatives have been in more unsafe situations than I was in or have been through, although my situation is/was…well it is also fitting to be reading here and elsewhere. I care, so I still read about it all for my own healing, to “find my voice”, to help where, or if, I can and to avoid places, and respectfully warn others, where it seems like a lot of error is going on that creates enabling and/or abusive environments.

        I’ve read some other posts here and I appreciate, and relate to, some of the phrases you’ve used, such as “honorable resisters” rather than “victims” or “rebellious”. I also appreciate that you point out that much, if not all, typical counseling, maintains the “primary goal of restoration of the marriage”. If this is true, it has never made sense to me, since I believe that marriage, while important and sacred, somehow, and not essential for everyone, was never meant to be a slavery (or abusive) dynamic. Also, I don’t think Jesus or Paul ever referred to it as an institution, like the Sabbath. Although, I acknowledge/believe that entanglement can last a long time (or it does for me anyway). It could be that I don’t necessarily know what those who state or claim that primary goal mean by that.

        From other places (books, sites, discussion with friends) I’ve found phrases that I can relate to better: “safety first”, “friendship first” and “covenants may be long, but closeness (physical and emotional) does really depend on behaviors” and my own thoughts on priority of goals: examination/test of what the relationship is first, commitment levels and choices placed in productive, hopeful places (boundaries), self compassion first, manipulation stopping first, honesty first, (all without perfection, but with acknowledgement and willingness! first). I am grateful to have been in quality therapy, I think, when my life was more stressful, but I did move around, and had some initial experiences that were not as good as others. “Willingness” is from a good experience.

        Thanks, again!

      • Reaching Out

        This link provides more information for anyone interested in the use of the term Honouring Resistance.

  6. Helovesme

    “But the team which the SBC has chosen includes people who are not clearly enough calling out the corruption in the system and the false premises on which the corrupt system is built.”

    Thank you for saying that, Barb. I totally respect your insights and discernment. As a general rule, I try not to take the thoughts of others and make them my own—-without giving careful thought and consideration first.

    This is one of the major ways that an abuse survivor can re-claim what was stolen from them: the ability to think and decide for oneself.

    But without a doubt, we ALL need good examples around us in order to encourage and bless us. This is something that I personally feel is sorely lacking in the church. This is something I feel you do a good job in, and we should all be thankful for that.

    We don’t necessarily have people that we respect as examples. Instead we a have strong but dangerous tendency to idolize those we feel have a “special” God-given gift, authority or personality that overwhelms the great need for sober and careful judgment.

    Is that person in question speaking Biblical truth, or is he or she speaking so eloquently, so sincerely, or so passionately that we immediately believe whatever they are trying to sell? We are captivated by their charisma, not concerned about Biblical accuracy.

    It can be very hard for abuse victims to know who to trust. Especially anyone claiming to know the ins and outs of abuse—but do they really? Or anyone who says they want to help, but do they really know what they are doing? Or, is there an alternative agenda?

    Is it all about cleaning up a mess, or just throwing a big blanket over it—-attempting to either cover it up under the guise of “healing” or trying to clean it up in the fastest way possible?

    Messes like this are not only hard to clean up—-but one would have to acknowledge the size and intensity of it as well.

    Like I said, it’s hard to know who to trust anymore. There are some hopeful persons named on that committee, though—for sure.

  7. FYI Barbara – All of your links from Chris Moles section on down (including “Further Reading) are bad. Maybe from changing domains?

    • Yes Julie Anne, I’m aware of that. My assistant Reaching Out is changing the links as fast as she can. It’s a massive job. I’m also changing links, when I get the time to do so.

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