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.
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.
We wanted members of the teaching team to represent a variety of perspectives and areas of expertise:
- 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.
I’m going to deal with Chris Moles in this post. Later parts will deal with Darby Strickland, Dianne Langberg and Leslie Vernick.
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?
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.
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
What do you know about programs for abusers? – this is one of our FAQ pages.
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.