Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Bye-Bye BGBC Survivors Blog, Hello Spiritual Sounding Board


I'm closing the doors of BGBC Survivors blog here and have moved on to new digs.  I've been wanting to ditch Blogger and this name for quite some time.  Please stop by, change your bookmarks, RSS feeds, etc.  

Julie Anne's new blogging home is here:


****Update 8/1/13:   If you'd like to read what's been on with Chuck O'Neal and Beaverton Grace Bible Church a year after winning the lawsuit, check out this post:

Beaverton Grace Bible Church and Pastor Chuck O’Neal – A Year after They Lost the Defamation Lawsuit
The Legal Rights of Christians vs Mercy and Love of Christ

10 Most Popular Articles of the Year at BGBC Survivors Blog

It's always fun to watch which blog posts are popular, so I thought it would be interesting to recap the ten most popular blog posts since the inception of the blog late February of 2012.  So, here ya go: 

This was a huge surprise to me.  I took a detour on this article after reading the Edwin Young story in the news.  This type of church is foreign to probably most of my readers and this post on Pastor Edwin Young and Faith Tabernacle has received the most hits of any blog posts and continues to receive hits on a daily basis.  Lois of spiritualabuse.org probably the most  information on this group on the internet and she has told me that the people in these churches are searching for answers.  You'll notice that many of the comments are anonymous.  These people live in fear, yet they know something is wrong at their church and are looking for information.  I praise God that He has used this disturbing and snarky post to reveal the truth and hope that people will not settle until they find the Truth. 

I was volunteering at a Christian high school summer camp when the judge gave his decision on the defamation lawsuit brought on by my former pastor, Chuck O'Neal and Beaverton Grace Bible Church.  I only had a short period of time to contact key people and write this blog post.  Judge Fun ruled that all our statements were not defamatory.   He concluded all of our statements were in a public forum and of public interest.

I want to point out something interesting.  During the last hearing, there was a lot of hoopla about the sexual offender comments I made.  In this article, you can see a screen shot where the judge refers to the comments.  You will notice there is NOTHING in this court document about Chuck or his son being abusers.  This is a new development O'Neal has concocted since the court case and was never included in ANY court documents.  

This is another surprise, but goes along with #1.  The people connected with Faith Tabernacle in Kansas have been looking for answers.  I've heard quite a few stories from some very brave souls who have reached out to me.  Please pray for this group.  Pastors are elevated to such a status that the congregation can see blatant sin before them, yet they choose to overlook it because they have been taught that God placed their pastors in that position.  If they question their pastor, they are questioning God.  This kind of teaching prevents them from finding a healthier place.  It is a form of brainwashing and is spiritually abusive placing pastors in a god-like status.

I wrote a tribute to my daughter, Hannah (also a defendant in the lawsuit).  This was written right before her graduation from college.  It was very emotional for me to write because it dealt with how I mistreated her when she was in our home.  Hannah abruptly left home because she could not emotionally or spiritually handle any more time at BGBC.  This story was linked in many news stories and blogs.  It is still very difficult to read because each time I read it, I am brought back to that heart-wrenching painful time.  

It was good for readers to hear from Hannah.  She expressed what she was going through so well.  This post has been linked a lot in homeschool circles.  I predict we will be reading more stories like Hannah's as a generation of homeschoolers involved in the homeschool movement are spreading their wings.  

This was a popular post.  People were initially shocked to hear that a pastor was suing his former church members, but my readers were equally shocked to read that he started a "survivor" blog, purchasing domain names approximately 8 months earlier.   In this blog post, we read how Chuck O'Neal reveals that they (he and his church) are the true BGBC Survivors for having to contend with our "malicious slander" for four years.  His wife, Tonya apparently has 5,000 business cards she hands out to people in town.  They also have car advertising magnets directing people to this Impostor Site.  Can you say "anti-evangelism"? 

This was a popular post because I quoted two of Chuck O'Neal's Google reviews.  Keep in mind the Google review interface is designed to review businesses.  Chuck O'Neal used this forum to review me, yet Google allowed it to remain even though I complained about it.  Somehow O'Neal was able to get my reviews removed.

This particular post was linked on news articles and blogs, so it received a lot of traffic.  This is also the review in which Chuck O'Neal implicates John MacArthur's church, Grace Community Church in which he stated the following:

After seeking counsel from a pastor on staff with Grace Community Church (under Pastor John MacArthur) and reading him several excerpts from JulieAnne's endless defamation, he recommended that we FILE A LAWSUIT in an appeal to Caesar as the Apostle Paul did when falsely accused of crimes against God and the state. 

This quote created quite a stir in the blogging community and eventually Phil Johnson, John MacArthur's right-hand man got involved, had an hour-long conversation with O'Neal in which Chuck apparently agreed that there was some misunderstanding and most likely no pastor encouraged him to sue us.  

Phil Johnson later released a statement that they would not encourage a pastor to sue and explained their biblical stance on churches/lawsuits.

 8.  How Far Will We Go to Contend for the Faith?

Fred Butler, a long-time employee of Grace to You, graduate of Master's College, and bible teacher at Grace Community church is a blogger.  He does not like survivor blogs and through a sequence of events, came to my blog to discuss survivor blogs and my case.   His presence stirred up a lot of emotions in the comments.  We later discovered that Fred Butler and Chuck O'Neal had conversed privately and this may have fed into Fred's remarks and why he defended Chuck so vehemently.  

Fred is a champion defender of his boss and mentor, John MacArthur, and goes to bat for him publicly on his blog.  He also has plenty of words to say about people who go against John MacArthur publicly and seems to assume pastors are always right without considering that there really are spiritually abusive pastors.    

Another interesting note:  even though Fred has a strong distaste for survivor blogs, he seems to give a pass to Chuck O'Neal's "survivor blog."  Check out this tweet from Fred and notice the date of December 10.  Obviously, Fred obtained information about O'Neal's new blog and tweeted about it even before BGBC members first started commenting on December 11, 2012.    After what Fred trashed my daughter publicly and eventually apologized, you would think he would have washed his hands from dealing with Chuck, but noooooooooo, he still meddles.  Shame on you, Fred.   You will have to answer for your behavior.

 9.  Chuck O'Neal's Original Complaints Against Julie Anne

This is one of the earlier blog posts in which I copied off key portions of Chuck's complaints from the original court documents so my readers could see exactly what was being said.  This post was linked in many news articles.

10.  Can Spiritual Abuse Destroy a Marriage? Paul's Story

One of the biggest tragedies of spiritual abuse occurs when the abuse interferes with a marriage, leading to its destruction.  This story is about Raymond Ernst and his experience with Pastor Kevin Dunn, of Eagle Heights Church in Hammond, Louisiana.  It's hard to find anything good in this post, it is that heart-wrenching.  But one thing that is good is that Raymond was willing to share his pain publicly. The Blogger stats show that people are doing internet searches for phrases like:  can spiritual abuse destroy a marriage,  spiritual abuse and divorce, etc.  

Raymond's story validates so many who are experiencing the same challenges.  And for that reason alone, I am glad this is a popular post.  If it helps just one couple to leave their abusive pastor and try to restore their marriage, Raymond's pain was not in vain.  

I never imagined this blog would have over 300,000 hits in just over 9 months. Thank you for your prayers and support this last year.

Tomorrow we turn a page, move on to 2013, and move the blog in a new direction.  Stay tuned!

Happy New Year!!

Julie Anne

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Chuck O'Neal's Minister's License is Revoked and Warning to Readers!

Hey folks, we took a trip for a few days and have been chill-axin' a bit after a 10-hour-drive in adverse road conditions yesterday, but this needs to be addressed.  During my time away, I became aware that Ken Silva of Apprising Ministries wrote an article announcing that my former pastor, Chuck O'Neal, had his minister's license revoked.  I'm not sure when this took place, but you can read about it in the link below.  Most of the article is old news to most of my regular readers, the new info is at the bottom of the article.


I would like to share what I know.

A pastor in the group affiliated with BGBC contacted me in early in June.  He became aware of the lawsuit when someone heard about it from the media and asked him about it.  After reading the blog, he then contacted me via the blog e-mail address to find out if Chuck O'Neal had given any notice or indication of dropping the lawsuit.  I told him that as far as I knew, O'Neal had no plans of dropping the lawsuit.  He was was genuinely sorry to hear about the lawsuit and said he was praying for me and all involved.  

Now, some six months later, I found out that Chuck O'Neal's minister's license was in fact revoked.  I do not have any information specifically why O'Neal's license was revoked.  No one has told me any reason and I have not asked.   I have suspicions, but they are just that, suspicions.  I do not believe his license was revoked because of information on my blog or solely based on stories they may have heard from former members.  I do not believe his license was revoked primarily because of the lawsuit.  The powers that be obviously must have some compelling reason(s), to have taken this action, but I simply do not have those reasons and I suspect they would not disclose them to me even if I asked.  

That said, this has been a long and difficult road.  When I wrote my first Google review, it was with the intent to tell our experience so that others could have this information available during their church decision-making process.  We all know the story how Google reviews were removed, I was sued along with 4 others for defamation, we went to court and won.  This should have been the end of the story.  

When we discuss spiritual abuse, we are typically discussing the kind of spiritual abuse that occurs while people are attending their church.  This is a bit odd.  What we have seen (and my readers continue to see) is that this spiritual abuse has continued long after we have left the church, some 4+ years later, even after a lawsuit was initiated in an attempt to silence us and our words (silencing = form of spiritual abuse).  All of this behavior is spiritually abusive.  A pastor is still trying to control what we can and cannot say.

Chuck originally said the story was about slander and defamation.  A big issue that got a lot of attention from Chuck and the media was my phrase about a known sex offender at the church with no known safeguards in place.  This phrase was labeled by the plaintiffs as defamatory and part of the court hearing.  It was listed in the court documents.   Chuck O'Neal and BGBC lost the lawsuit.  Now, after he's had his day in court in the civil court process that he initiated, he has still been complaining on his blog, on business cards being handed out (anti-evangelism business cards, anyone?) in the Beaverton, Oregon area, on magnetic car advertisements with information directing people to his Impostor blog saying that Meaghan and I are women of mass destruction and that Meaghan has reported Chuck and his son, Charlie, as sexual offenders.

I will speak on this issue once and for all regarding Chuck's allegations that Meaghan Varela reported him and his son to DHS for sex abuse.  I have never known Meaghan to be dishonest.  Meaghan told me what she told DHS soon after contacting DHS and I wrote what she told me on my Google review and later on my blog.  I am not one to mince words.  

If I had any inkling that Chuck O'Neal or his son, Charlie O'Neal, were sex abusers, I would have marched my derrière to the DHS office myself and reported him/them so they could investigate.  There is no way in HELL that I would ever have withheld that kind of information from my Google reviews or blog.  Protecting victims of abuse is just too important for me.  For him to accuse us of reporting him/them now, after the court hearing, is ridiculous.  

These are allegations that I believe Chuck has concocted himself.  I believe that his blog, the DHS report,  and the attorney letter filled with discrepancies are solely  diversion tactics to shift the focus onto Meaghan and me, rather than what we know to be true and has been evidenced to the world via the very public lawsuit:  that Chuck O'Neal lost his lawsuit and is acting like a Spiritual Wolf.

You may have noticed after we won the court hearing, I attempted to discontinue the use of the full name of BGBC on this blog.  I changed the blog name to BGBC rather than spelling it out.  BGBC was referenced as "my former church."  I also did the same with Chuck O'Neal's name, "my former pastor."  I am and have been ready to move on.    There have been no new accusations from us.  We have said what needed to be said.  The civil court made its ruling.  The only opinion that matters to me is God's and I believe I have done what God would have wanted:   to shine the light of truth on a very dark situation that was destroying people's spiritual lives.

My original post was going to stop here, but this evening, I was alerted to a new situation that needs to be shared in a more visible way.

A friend alerted me to this comment left at The Wartburg Blog today:

Here was the response I left for Melissa at The Wartburg Blog site:

Wow, Melissa. I guess nothing surprises me anymore. Do you live in Beaverton? One would wonder why he would think someone who most likely doesn’t live anywhere near Beaverton would care about his links. How did he get your e-mail address?
Even though he got his degree in psychology, he won’t be seeking therapy. And since no one goes outside the church for counseling and he thinks he is the only one qualified to counsel, that’s out of the question. Maybe his wife would submit to his counseling.
I notice he doesn’t come to TWW anymore, however, he seems to have time to keep up with comments here (adding one this afternoon): http://toddrhoades.com/pastor-starts-website-to-attack-churchs-attackers/
Notice how he corrects a pastor who called him out. Also notice how he refers to my mentioning of the word “mediation”, but doesn’t say anything beyond that. And he does not say a thing about his recently revoked minister’s license. Wonder why?

After typing that response, I notice "Melissa" posted a comment here on my blog.  I've taken a screen shot of the comment and my response:

Here is Melissa's response to me.  She mentions Huffington post and this is the article Melissa is referring to:  Huffington Post.   

  1. melissaDecember 30, 2012 6:13 PMYes, that's me. I also posted to his website, but of course that's moderated. I hate bullies, and he's the worst of the worst. I originally emailed him after the story hit the Huffington Post. Here's our interchange:

    -----Original Message-----
    From: "Melissa"
    Sent: Sunday, May 13, 2012 4:30pm
    To: "chuckoneal@cleaninter.net"

    What an embarrassment you are chuck o'neil. I didn't know about you until you decided to file a lawsuit. I guess that debunks your lawsuit. You have effectively destroyed your reputation with me (and many other complete strangers) by your public filing of action against a member of your church. Perhaps, you should have just ignored the criticism, then people like me would have never known about you! And FTR, pastors who sue church members generally have something to hide. Of course that's complete opinion and should never be construed as chuck truth.
    Have a great mothers day from a very cool mommy,

    Melissa Fletcher, RN,BSN,MSN and a real doctoral candidate (as opposed to the faux version you right wingers prefer)

    Sent from my iPhone


    On May 15, 2012, at 9:59 PM, chuckoneal@cleaninter.net wrote:

    Things are not always what they first seem to be. Here is the rest of the story.


    There is another side to the story. Beaverton Grace Bible Church wants to present its side of the story
    ****************deleted most of this email because I stopped reading about 4 lines in when my mind started substituting words with "blah blah blah"***********
    We thank you for your prayers.

    -----Original Message-----
    From: "Melissa"
    Sent: Wednesday, May 16, 2012 1:06am
    To: "chuckoneal@cleaninter.net"
    Subject: Re: RE:

    Your Hardly blameless, and your loose use of scripture to prove your position speaks volumes. Sorry "pastor" O'neill, you have no excuse. 

    Sent from my iPhone
  2. melissaDecember 30, 2012 6:14 PMContinued:

    From: "chuckoneal@cleaninter.net"
    To: Melissa
    Sent: Saturday, December 29, 2012 8:01 AM
    Subject: Re: RE:

    Dear Melissa,

    I hope you had a Merry Christmas! No excuses, just the truth of why we attempted to use legal means to defend our families. Just wanted to let you know that we have finally gotten the antidote to our revilers' poison up on the internet at **********.org or you can click on the following links:


    Thank you for your kind email and prayers!
    For Christ and His Church,
    Chuck O'Neal, Pastor BGBC


    Re: RE:
    Hide Details

    Melissa Fletcher


    wow, now your bonified obsessed. I had all but forgotten you completely. Congratulations on taking your misogyny to the next level. I'm giving you some free press, just like you like it. I've posted your blog on my IFB cult survivors page on facebook so everyone can see how far an abuser will go to harass others and defend himself. I'm sure you'll get a few comments on your new blog from our members, so good thing you have the "moderation" option on. You would think that after your first decision to make a buffoon of yourself, getting national press coverage, and then LOSING, you would learn. But oh well! Being smart about handling people speaking against you definitely isn't your strong suit. Free advice for the new year: you did good cleaning up the comments on google. Most people forgot who you were including me. Take down your blog and it will stay that way. The more you fight, the guiltier you look, and right now you are looking pretty guilty. May your 2013 be filled with peace....your not starting strong but I have hope. 

    Melissa Fletcher

    Anyway, I was pretty surprised to see him make the effort to respond to me months and months after our last contact. It actually set off all my triggers. I didn't think I was particularly kind....or even feigned more than bystander interest, but apparently he feels he can prove something. He's sick and he needs help. When I looked up his website today and saw he is bragging that he has a blog to defend himself, I thought my my my....the lengths this man will go. He's stereotypical cult leader. Essentially he's destroying himself, and that's always sad to watch, although I can't fake sympathy. The pews of that church serve better empty. There are better places to worship and more loving versions of Christianity out there.

I wholeheartedly agree with Melissa's words above.  I am very disappointed that Chuck has decided to contact people like this and need to issue this disclaimer:  

WARNING to BGBC Survivors Readers:  If you attempt to leave a comment at the Impostor Site or send Chuck O'Neal a personal e-mail, he may keep it on file for months or longer to use as he wishes.  If you do not wish to receive any e-mails from him, please do not contact him via his blog or the church e-mail address.  This is very disturbing behavior.  

photo credit: roswellsgirl via photopin cc

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

John Piper and the Church on Domestic Violence

Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves;
    ensure justice for those being crushed.

Yes, speak up for the poor and helpless,

    and see that they get justice.
Proverbs 31:8-9

In an earlier post, Domestic Violence:  Do Pastors Know Best?, I posted a video of a question and answer session in which John Piper was asked about domestic violence.  The video is several years old, but his words created quite a storm.  Here were some of the troubling words:

If it’s not requiring her to sin but simply hurting her, then I think she endures verbal abuse for a season, and she endures perhaps being smacked one night, and then she seeks help from the church.   
~John Piper

Enduring abuse "one night" could be a woman's last night in the hands of a violent husband.  This was not the correct response.  These words were not appropriate from a very popular celebrity pastor who leads a large church and whose words people respond to and respect.  His response in the video gives a free pass for an abuser to continue destructive abuse and keeps a woman and her children in harm's way without acknowledging that some abuse is a crime and must be reported to civil authorities.  A wife enduring abuse is not always in the best position to make appropriate decisions.  They need help from clear-minded individuals who are looking out for their safety.  John Piper failed to protect her and possibly many others who listened to his response.  

Last week, Piper released a response to this video and so I wanted to let you know about this recent statement.  He's a few years late in responding, in my opinion:  Clarifying Words on Wife Abuse.  Although Piper is now clear that calling civil authorities is appropriate in cases of crime, there is one thing glaringly missing from this clarification - an apology - especially an apology to those women who heeded his instructions to "endure perhaps being smacked for one night."  This was abhorrent advice.  I wonder how many women endured one more night of abuse based on this video?  They trusted this man of God and his words.  

Dee and Deb,  of the Wartburg Watch blog and I sometimes accidentally and/or intentionally piggy back on similar stories.  I found out today that we did it again.   We share the same heart for victims of abuse.  Please do read Dee's excellent article:  Domestic Violence, Christmas, John Piper, SGM, and TGC.  She takes a closer look at a number of questionable phrases from Piper's article.  It's a very informative article.  

I do not think the timing of Piper's article coming out is coincidental.  A number of bloggers have done articles on this obnoxious video and his teachings on divorce/abuse (Cry for Justice, Wartburg Watch, BGBC Survivors, From Bitter Waters, Under Much Grace, Galations 4, Free Jinger, Reformed Traveler, Emotional Abuse and Your Faith, etc).  What I believe is happening is that bloggers are highlighting this behavior and readers/people are responding.  They are responding in comments on blogs like mine, on the blogs of leaders, they are sending e-mails and challenging leaders on these topics.  Thank YOU if you have done this.  

Jeff Crippen has come out strongly against domestic abuse in an open letter to pastors: 

In November, I wrote a post (Complementarians Speak out about Violence Against Womenabout the many church leaders and pastors who wrote articles against domestic violence coinciding with the: International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.

All of this recent focus on abuse is no coincidence.  It makes sense in light of the Sovereign Grace Lawsuit that surely looms in the heads of friends  Sovereign Grace pastors and leaders, especially president of SGM, CJ Mahaney, who is named in the lawsuit.  I would like to highlight an earlier blog post featuring a video by attorney Gilion Dumas: A Word of Encouragement to Abuse Victims Who Use Civil Litigation.  In cases of overlooked abuse and failure to respond or report crimes, pastors are also crossing the lines in the civil government.  They have a moral responsibility to society to report crimes.  

Based on the many comments and stories I have read of domestic violence in Sovereign Grace Ministries churches, it would not be surprising to see the current class action lawsuit revised to include additional cases of abuse, including domestic violence.  Even if it doesn't, the Sovereign Grace Ministries lawsuit is the lawsuit to watch among church leaders.     

The purpose of this blog is to highlight spiritual abuse.  When pastors and church leaders fail to address ANY abuse appropriately in the context of church, they become complicit with the abuse.  A failure to address abuse is a choice to remain silent.  Church leaders will have to answer to God for this non-response.  Remaining silent is the wrong response and leads to secondary abuse:  spiritual abuse.  Let's continue to be the squeaky wheel on behalf of victims who cannot speak for themselves (Proverbs 31:8-9).  

photo credit: United Nations Photo via photopin cc

Monday, December 24, 2012

Carolers, Joy, Neighbors, and the Gift that Keeps Giving

friend loves at all times, 
And a brother is born for adversity.

Proverbs 17:17

I collect carolers and found these on eBay last year.  Love them!

Friday night I invited students from my kids' high school choir classes to come over for a night of caroling, hot apple cider, treats, and games.   We had great time.  My neighborhood has a lot of elderly and the group of carolers managed to bring three people to tears by their simple songs.  There was no rehearsing, the caroling was spontaneous, with a dose of goofiness thrown in for good measure.

Isaiah 40: 11
He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: 
he shall gather the lambs with his arm, 
and carry them in his bosom, 
and shall gently lead those that are with young.

One elderly woman was very surprised at our visit and you could tell that she didn't quite know what to do.  She had her television on.  She asked us to wait while she turned off the television, apologizing that the television keeps her company because she's alone.  From behind her screen door, she looked out among our group and noticed a student wearing a NY Yankees baseball cap.  She opened the door and told us the NY Yankees was her husband's favorite team.   Then she disclosed to us that he had been gone for four years.  She had a smile on her face as she reminisced about her lost husband.  She had originally come to the door with a sort of displeased expression - it was a bit late for her, maybe she wondered who was going to try to sell her something on a Friday night.  But when she saw the kids showing kindness and love, the expression on her face changed.  As she spoke to me, she opened up, wanting to share what was going on in her life.  

Psalm 24: 7 - 10
Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors; 
and the King of Glory shall come in. Who is this King of Glory? 
The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle. 
Lift up your heads, O ye gates; even lift them up, ye everlasting doors; 
and the King of Glory shall come in. 
Who is this King of Glory? 
The Lord of Hosts, He is the King of Glory. 

Even after the carol was sung and the kids started walking away, she continued talking.  She was so thankful we stopped by and expressed her thanks, but continued to apologize about the television being on because she was not expecting company.  She and I ended our conversation as the carolers were a little ways down the street.  The young lady with the cap told me she felt bad for wearing the cap - that it might have made her sad.   I told the sweet student that her cap brought the woman joy by reminding her of happy memories with her husband.   I think I'm going to take my own kids over to visit Frances during the year.  She very excitedly told me that her son, and clarified 'one' of her sons, would be visiting on Christmas eve to spend time with her so she wouldn't be alone.  I was glad to hear that.

We walked two doors down to the house of an elderly widower.  My kids and I rarely see him outside during the year, but I vividly remembered his response last year when we caroled at his house.  The house was dark and it took him quite a while to get the lights on.  He apologized profusely for having it so dark - - he didn't want anyone to get hurt on the walkway and said he wasn't expecting company.  He wanted to give us something, something to eat, but we told him we weren't there to get anything - that we just wanted to sing for him.  I remember his tears last year.  This year, as I reached my hand out to him and reminded him again that I am his neighbor from "down the block and over there, the house with all the boys," he hung on to my hand and then my finger as I walked away.  He had a smile on his face.  We were probably the only visitors he's had in a long time.

Further down the road, we surprised a woman maybe in her 50s.  She lives in a very nice home.  She smiled as the kids sang their carol.  After the song, she asked what school the kids were from.  They told her they were from the "other" school in the district (meaning they weren't from the high school down the block).   She asked why they were caroling.   The kids told her they were simply caroling because they wanted to share their singing with others.  There was a shocked look on her face.  I think she may have thought we were expecting a donation, and when the kids responded, she let out a gasp, uttered some words I could not hear, touched her hand to her heart and expressed a very heart-felt thanks. I could see the tears in her eyes:  she got a gift from strangers with nothing expected in return.

1 Corinthians 15: 51, 52
Behold, I shew you a mystery; 
We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 
In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: 
for the trumpet shall sound, 
and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, 
and we shall be changed. 

Such a simple thing - carolers - neighbors - a connection - a song to sing.  Seeing the response from those three people was so special.  But even more than that, seeing how the kids noticed their responses was priceless.  The kids saw how their gift of music and connecting with someone brought joy.   This is the gift that keeps on giving.  

1 Corinthians 15: 54
So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, 
and this mortal shall have put on immortality, 
then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, 
Death is swallowed up in victory. 

That is how I have felt this past year.  I got a gift from strangers with nothing expected in return.  Most of you were strangers to me when I shared my story.  Yet, you came, you connected with me, you prayed for me, you shared yourselves with me.  I am blessed by having you in my life.  Some think of online relationships as "not real".  I can tell you that I have cried many, many times by the words of yours which have touched me, some in sadness, some in joy.  You all are very real to me.  You come to mind when I am at the grocery store, when I'm driving my daughter to her volleyball games.  I thank  you for the gift of relationship, for reaching out to me.  I am a different person today than I was nine months ago because of the friendships I have made here.  

Thank you, friends.  Merry Christmas, everyone!  

And for those of you who might be alone emotionally or spiritually because of circumstances or abuse, my heart aches for you and I am praying especially for you.  

~Julie Anne

Revelation 5: 12, 13
Saying with a loud voice, 
Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, 
and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing. 
And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, 
and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, 
and all that are in them, heard I saying, 
Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, 
be unto Him that sitteth upon the throne, 
and unto the Lamb for ever and ever.


In addition to caroling next year, it is my dream to do something like this with a group of kids:

Update:  Just after I posted this, I checked on Facebook and one of my friends posted this as her Facebook status:

Flash Mob Caroling at Clackamas Town Center. Brought me to tears…

(Clackamas Town Center was the location of the recent mall shooting in which two people were killed.  How cool is that?!)

Friday, December 21, 2012

Spiritual Abuse: Verses Pastors Twist and Misuse to Control

 For an overseer, as God's steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction insound[f] doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it. 
10 For there are many who are insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision party. 11 They must be silenced, sincethey are upsetting whole families by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach. (Titus 1:7-11)

In reference to the above scripture, authors David Johnson and Jeff VanVonderen in their book, The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse, have this to say:

This passage opens to us the additional problem of placing heavy performance weights upon struggling people by means of misusing or abusing Scripture.
Instead of using the Word as a sword to pierce through the thoughts and motives of their own hearts, many spiritual leaders have used it as a stick to drive others, for a variety of reasons:  to keep others from holding them accountable; to protect their image; to uphold a doctrine they have based a whole ministry upon; to keep funds coming in; to build religious kingdoms in order to bolster their own spiritual self-esteem.  In other words, it's possible that some leaders teach the Word for personal gain, not to heal and to free.

One of the primary purposes of this blog is to identify spiritual abuse.  Just as I used Google search engine to educate myself years ago, others are also searching and stumble across my blog looking for answers.  I want them to be able to quickly find answers to their questions and also provide resources:  Spiritual Abuse Help.   

I would like to solicit your help.  If you know of any verses that pastors misuse in order to control or abuse, please pass them my way.  I'd like to compile a list of these verses and add them to the resource page.  I think it will be very eye-opening for those who are struggling with spiritual abuse to see this list and discover that their pastor has used verses inappropriately.   Hebrews 13:17 is a biggie used by many controlling pastors.  If there was a way to track this information, I have a hunch that this verse would be the most popular misused scripture.    

I have often said that spiritual abusers must go to the same school to learn this stuff because they use the same verses to abuse, same control tactics.  I feel a little guilty putting this list together publicly, because leaders from CSAS (Creepy Spiritual Abuse School), might steal it and use it as their core curriculum, but I'll have to take that risk.  Many spiritual abusers are narcissists who do not believe they are abusing to begin with, so they probably wouldn't look up spiritual abuse, or if they do, they are projecting and accusing others of spiritual abuse.  

My objective here is to note the verses and then maybe in another post we can look at the patterns we see in the verses:  the patterns to obtain control, the patterns of shaming, elevating a position of status, etc.  

I haven't mentioned it in a while, but want to throw this out there again.  When pastors use the Bible to abuse, the Bible itself can become an emotional trigger.  I no longer personally use NKJV translation.   If I read that translation, I can hear the voice of my former pastor on specific verses.  The way he used the verses sometimes was not how they were intended and I need to exchange that with truth so I can really hear from God.  If you are having difficulty reading the Bible you used at a spiritually abusive church, see what happens if you try a different Bible or translation.  If one of God's primary ways of speaking to us is through His Word, find something that works for you.  

Here are some posts I have done and comments by readers on scripture used to misuse or exert control over someone:

Verses Misused to Label People Who Question Authority as Divisive 

Romans 16:17:  Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them.  NKJV  

Pastors use this verse to "mark and avoid" (shun) members they deem are divisive.  This is not the correct interpretation.  This is really about marking and avoiding false teachers, not congregants.     False Teachers Who Mark and Avoid Church Members

Titus 3:10-11:   Reject a divisive man after the first and second admonition,  knowing that such a person is warped and sinning, being self-condemned.

This is one of those verses used to cut off and shun those who are stirring up problems. And by problems, I mean for instance those who are 
attempting to challenge church doctrines that are biblically unsound.(monax)

The Titus passage is about false and divisive people teaching or preaching, not about pew-sitters. Context is important. Check out the verses before and after. (Arce)

The following is from Biblegateway.com in connection with Titus 3:10 verse:  8750 false teaching = Scripture repeatedly warns against false teachings, which deny or distort some aspect of the gospel. The origin of such teachings is attributed either to human error or to demonic inspiration. (ja)

Verses Pastor Use to Puff up Their Position as Authority

Psalm 105:15  - "Do not touch My anointed ones, And do My prophets no harm."

This verse is in a Psalm that recounts the marvelous protection that God showed to the Patriarchs, the Hebrews, Moses, etc. in the context of the patriarchal narratives of the first five books of the Bible.  Verse 5 recounts the protection that these people receive from kings and other rulers who might try to harm them.  False teachers use this to suggest that they are such “patriarchal” and leadership types, and should thus be especially, divinely protected from EVERYONE.  When they cite this verse, they also present themselves as being very, very threatening to other leaders, such as government authorities, other church leaders, etc., and are in need of divine protection as they conduct their “prophetic” ministries, etc.  (Ken Garrett)

1 Timothy 3:1 ESV - "The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task.” 

Setting aside the question whether pastors are always overseers, the use of the word office in this verse gives rise to a strong inference of overseers being vested with authority.  Trouble is, the word office in this passage does not translate any Greek word. The word office was simply inserted into the English translations.  More specifically, the Greek word episkopes, meaning something along the lines of overseerage or overseership, is translated “office of overseer.” I believe that the passage, if translated literally, should read something like “If anyone aspires to overseerage (or overseership), he desires a noble task.” Young’s Literal Translation reads, “If any one the oversight doth long for . . .” 

If all this sounds too awkward for English language ears, I suggest something like, “If anyone aspires to the MINISTRY of overseer, he desires a noble task.” The use of the word ministry in place of office makes the passage compatible with Jesus' own teaching and injunction: “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:25b-28 ESV).  A similar analysis would apply to every appearance I have found of the word office in the ESV New Testament, at least insofar as there is no standalone Greek word for any appearance of the English word office. (Gary)

Obey Pastors, Elders, Church Leaders

Hebrews 13:17 - below are posts I did early in the blog, in March, right after being sued:
Obey Those Who Rule Over You, and Be Submissive, Part 1
Obey Those Who Rule Over You and Be Submissive, Part 2


Malachi 3:8-10:  This verse can be used "to attempt to compel giving as a legalistic requirement (to the preacher and his ministry kingdom, of course) rather than as a matter of heartfelt determination: “Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, ‘How have we robbed you?’ In your tithes and contributions. You are cursed with a curse, for you are robbing me, the whole nation of you. Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the LORD of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need.” (ESV). (Gary)

Arce notes:  "Some of the tithing passages, and this is one, apply to the priests who were supposed to bring the tithes and not keep all of them for themselves. As in preachers taking whopping salaries and benefits, instead of feeding the poor, clothing those in need, and housing the homeless."

Verses Used to Enforce Mandatory Church Attendance

Hebrews 10:24-25: And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. (ESV)

In my experience, even pastors I would not consider abusive tend to use the “not neglecting to meet together” phrase in this verse to encourage attendance at church functions, especially services. I would be in agreement if the verse were to be used to promote the kind of face-to-face, participatory, fellowship in which all present could actually stir up one another to love and good works and encourage one another. However, I submit that the verse is being used manipulatively, or at least inappropriately, when the intention is to promote attendance at events where the laity, having little if any opportunity to interact with one another, have no choice but to be passive observers—excepting only when doing what they are told to do (stand, sing, sit, give, etc.). (Gary)

Verses Pastors Use to Control How to Dress/Wear their Hair, etc.

1 Peter 3:3-4 Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.

Deuteronomy 22:5 The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman's garment: for all that do so are abomination unto the Lord thy God.

1 Corinthians 11:6 For if the woman be not covered, let her also be shorn: but if it be a shame for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her be covered. (Shannon H)

The following notes are from Pastor Ken Garrett.  Thank you, Ken!!! 

Blessing/Cursing the false teacher:  Genesis 12:3 And I will bless those who bless you, And the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed. = false teachers have used this verse to suggest that they, as men who are favored by God (as Abraham was) are sources of either blessing, or cursing, depending on their followers’ treatment of them.  To be generally well-disposed towards the false teacher will bring blessing, as will any gift or support given to him.  To act/think/speak against the false teacher, well…you get the idea.

Treating the false teacher as responsible for the success of his followers in their spiritual battles: Exodus 17:11 So it came about when Moses held his hand up, that Israel prevailed, and when he let his hand down, Amalek prevailed.

The suggestion of the false teacher here is that his/her spiritual life (or disciplines, study time, prayer, etc.) is more important than that of their followers, and that their time and freedom should be protected and facilitated.  In this sense, the false teacher presents himself In a more sinister light.  There is also the implicit suggestion that the false teacher plays a sort of mediatorial role between their followers and God (cf. Jude 12b, where Korah is cited for his attempts to usurp the mediatorial role of Moses. (Also, Numbers 16, esp. v3)

Cursing the false teacher:  Exodus 22:28 "You shall not curse God, nor curse a ruler of your people. = false teachers often view criticism and challenge from their followers as a type of cursing.  

Of course, in applying this verse to themselves, they are implicitly claiming to be “rulers,” a very powerful, unbiblical assertion!  In reality most of the “cursing” done against false teachers is in private, in the innermost chambers of the wounded hearts of their followers. 

Taking the Consecrated Bread:  1 Sam  21  6 So the priest gave him consecrated bread; for there was no bread there but the bread of the Presence which was removed from before the LORD, in order to put hot bread in its place when it was taken away. And, (Mat 12:2-4)   2 But when the Pharisees saw it, they said to Him, "Behold, Your disciples do what is not lawful to do on a Sabbath." 3 But He said to them, "Have you not read what David did, when he became hungry, he and his companions; 4 how he entered the house of God, and they ate the consecrated bread, which was not lawful for him to eat, nor for those with him, but for the priests alone?  

This account from the life of David, commended by the Lord Himself in the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, has been cited by false teacher’s to explain why it is acceptable for them to discount or flaunt traditions and policies in their churches that they have found to be restrictive to the goals of their ministries.  For example, the false teacher who is challenged for his use of very secularized music or presentation in the worship service might counter, “Just like David took the consecrated bread to feed his men, so I’m not bowing to tradition when there are bigger issues at stake, like reaching the lost,” etc.  When David took the bread it was with the self-knowledge that he truly was the Lord’s anointed, was innocent—and had to meet the physical needs of his men more than the ceremonial needs of the tabernacle.  Also, he took the bread in full acknowledgment that, as the Lord’s Anointed, he had an implicit right to do so.  (By the way, his decision contributed to the slaughter of many innocent priests!)  In the same way, Jesus made the point to the Pharisees that as the Messiah, He possessed the sole right to subjugate the ceremonial rules of the tabernacle, because “something greater than then temple” stood before them (Matt 12: 6).  That “something greater” was HIMSELF, not a particular flouting or dismissal of rules.

“Stretching out (one’s) hand” against the false teacher:  1 Samuel 24:6 So he said to his men, "Far be it from me because of the LORD that I should do this thing to my lord, the LORD'S anointed, to stretch out my hand against him, since he is the LORD'S anointed." 

A classic false teacher favorite.  This verse, taken from the account of David’s refusal to murder King Saul as he, uh…was having some private time in a cave…, is cited as a warning and example to the false teacher’s followers—they must never address the shortcomings and failures of their leader, and must certainly NEVER presume to take a corrective or disciplinary role towards them, as they (the false teachers) are to be considered “anointed of God.”  Both Saul and David were certainly anointed by God—through His appointed prophet/priest Samuel, and at the explicit command of God. (1 Sam 15:1, 16:1, 13) While pastors are, hopefully, full of the Holy Spirit as all believers are to be, and they (hopefully) routinely receive the anointing-empowering of the Spirit for preaching, they are certainly NOT anointed to regal positions over God’s people as were David and Saul.  Also, the “stretch out” of the hand that David spoke of was in violence—so as to execute Saul and take over the kingdom, NOT to simply confront him for sin or clarification, etc.

The false teacher’s “Mighty Men”:  2 Sam 23:8ff These are the names of the mighty men whom David had… = The “mighty men” of David, who comprised a group of super-loyal, super-soldier, Band of Brothers all rolled into one, were a select group of warriors and friends (many if not most of them non-Jews, I believe) who pledged themselves to David for life, to obey his commands, defend his honor, fight for him, kill for him, etc.  They were a type of royal bodyguard, only much more.  They were also key leaders in David’s government.  The fact that they are primarily not identified by tribal membership suggests that their loyalty to David was very, very personal—and that they had, for all purposes, given their loyalty to him over their own homes and national identities.  Stunning, dramatic accounts are recorded of their feats, strength, and courage.  False teacher’s (who often identify themselves as Davidic-type personages) have been known to gather their own little band of “might men” from the church.  These men are chosen primarily for their personal loyalty to the pastor, and inevitably view themselves as distinct from the rest of the congregation.  They are the inner-circle, and are often made privy to the secrets, plots, and general political-moral intrigues of the false teacher, and are rewarded for their “loyalty” by public acclaim and personal flattery and promotion in the church.  They act as buffers against the regular congregation-member’s criticism or personal challenge to the pastor.  Often they are put on elder-boards, and expected to demonstrate personal loyalty to the pastor, even over loyalty to the members of the church, let alone to the Chief Shepherd!  (see also, 2 Sam 10:7, 17:8ff)

Not heeding the words of the false teacher:   These verses, and many like them in Proverbs, are used by false teacher’s to claim a type of “wisdom” that any reasonable, godly person would obey and seek out.  To not apply the counsel of the false teacher is seen, in this sense, as an act of the foolish, and an invitation to great ruin.

Proverbs 13:1 A wise son accepts his father's discipline, But a scoffer does not listen to rebuke. 
Proverbs 27:5  Better is open rebuke Than love that is concealed.  (Ken Garrett)

Please feel free to leave any verses that pastors use to abuse, control, coerce, manipulate, threaten, etc, in the comments.   Even if you are reading this post months later, go ahead and comment.  This post will be linked in the Spiritual Abuse Resource area and will be the master list.  Thank you in advance for your contributions.  I think this is going to be very beneficial to have a comprehensive list.  


I am very grateful for the contributors to this article.  The names of contributors are listed at the end of each item they contributed in parentheses.  

photo credit: Ryk Neethling via photopin cc