Saturday, September 29, 2012

A Sign of Hope Among the Mayhem in Church Abuse

Why do bloggers expose church leaders who abuse?  Because there is a PROBLEM.  The problem leaves lasting effects - sometimes eternally.  We will never know the full outcome of destruction caused by pastors who abuse - whether they abuse spiritually, sexually, emotionally, etc.  And church leaders will not be motivated to fix anything until they first see the problem.  This is why many of us blog - this problem needs to be addressed head on.

It is emotionally draining to read and sift through so many stories of abuse,  but the bloggers and readers that I am personally connected with are driven by either something they have seen or have personally experienced and know that these stories must be told.  

A friend/reader sent me an article this morning and wow - the emotions -   I got teary-eyed and a little excited reading it.  This pastor GETS IT!!    Lord, please let his voice speak LOUDLY about this issue.   This is definitely an article to share.  I encourage you to Tweet it, share it on Facebook, send it to your pastors and church leaders.  I am highlighting a few paragraphs, but please read the whole article which is posted at the Gospel Coalition website.  

Does Your Church Have Policies and Practices to Protect Against Pastoral Failures?  by Thabiti Anyabwile

Remember the names Ted Haggard, Eddie Long, and Jack Schaap?  Scandal among evangelical pastors has been so steady that wikipedia has a list of evangelical scandals.
While working on a chapter for an upcoming book, I had the blessing of researching the moral failures of several prominent church pastors.  I say “blessing” because it was enlightening to observe some common dynamics and failures in the scandals.  In most cases, men who should have been disqualified were back in their pulpits or establishing new ministries within months.  In most cases, churches were seriously injured by the transgressions and hurt further by the inadequate efforts at redress.  In all the cases, the offending pastor received more attention and support than the victims of his abuse or deceit.  It was a sobering exercise.

DING, DING, DING:  Did you read that sentence, " In all the cases, the offending pastor received more attention and support than the victims of his abuse or deceit. "  BINGO!!!!    We see this alarming pattern time and again.  It is spiritual abandonment.  The victim is hurt TWICE:  once with the initial abuse and then by not being properly cared for or abandoned.  

In the article, Anyabwile quotes a paragraph from researchers Diana R. Garland and Christen Argueta about grooming.  It is excellent.  Unfortunately, people who need help and are emotionally distraught are the ones most vulnerable for grooming.  They are in a very weak place and of course, abusers can sense that weakness and in their sin, hone in on it:

Grooming includes expressions of admiration and concern, affectionate gestures and touching, talking about a shared project, and sharing of personal information (Carnes, 1997; see also Garland, 2006).  Grooming may be gradual and subtle, desensitizing the congregant to increasingly inappropriate behavior while rewarding her for tolerance of that behavior.  Offenders may use religious language to frame the relationship, such as “You are an answer to my prayer; I asked God for someone who can share my deepest thoughts, prayers, and needs and he sent me you” (Liberty, 2001, p. 85). Grooming is essentially seduction in a relationship in which a religious leader holds spiritual power over the congregant. 

The final paragraph rightly concludes with a call to action.  The author first acknowledges he has his own work to do at his church.  

Does your staff, leadership team, elders and congregation have a set of practices and policies that help guard against the moral failure of leaders and to address it when it happened?  After reading sifted through a fair number of recent articles and scandals, I’m freshly convinced I need to lead First Baptist’s leaders through discussions and proposals on this issue.  The costs are too high to neglect with inattention.
Let us pray for the protection, wisdom, and sanctification of both church leaders and church members.  Let us intercede against the schemes of the evil one.  And let us be prepared to respond in cases of scandal with love and justice as defined by the scripture.  Again, so much is at stake. 

I love this.  Let's hope Anyabwile's motivation to work on a plan for protection is contagious among church leaders and members.

photo credit: Joshua Daniel O. via photopin cc


  1. Yes. Let's hope this catches on with people who are "like-minded" and part of Anyabwile's circles.

    1. That's right, Steve. I cannot follow some of what I see in "those" circles, but this truth is universal.

  2. I just now started to share with a couple of peeps about my spiritual abuse situation during my cancer battle. I couldn't find a word for it, but you "nailed" it regarding abandonment. Going through cancer almost alone and my(at the time) church not helping me hurt like hell. It was a small "Emerging Church" that claimed to be part of the "do" church movmeent. But, I don't know. I think all churches can have leaders prone to abuse, control, manipulation, abandonment. Yea, prayers that all church leaders would start to open their eyes to this and address it.

    1. Tammy - OUCH! Yes, abandonment is one of those issues that does not get the limelight. It's kind of like people who deal with conflict in a passive aggressive way. With me, it's what you see is what you get, there is no beating around the bush and my sin is evident to all. Others are equally sinful when they respond to conflict in underhanded not-so-obvious ways.

      Abandonment is a moral failure in the church. I am so sorry that you were alone during your cancer battle. I want to ask how you are doing now, but don't want you to feel pressured to respond if you don't feel comfortable, but know that my thoughts and prayers are with you, Tammy!

    2. Thank you for asking, Julie Anne. I am very fortunate and have been free for 2 yrs. I had an 8cm mass taken out of my right side jaw muscles. I think maybe some people thought it was "no big deal" because so much limelight is put on the devastation/survival of breast cancer survivors. Don't get me wrong, they suffer through a lot, but I think ANY kind of cancer has it's own amount of fear and treatment.

      I had two surgeries and one shot of, overall, I was very fortunate. I had parents help here and there when they could make it in to town. But, my church(at the time) honestly, DID abandon me. I ended up having some friends(not necessarily close friends, but great people) and some co-workers help me out. It just seemed weird that the help didn't come from my community.

      And, I don't think many really understand the devastation of the financial burden that follows in trying to pay for everything. I am still paying on most of my bills at different medical entities. I am grateful for life and healing, but it was and is hard.

      Yea, as you know, I am working through Barb Orlowski's Spiritual Abuse Recovery book and that has helped me take some steps toward getting back to and finding a safe community. Thank you so much for your prayers and concerns, Julie Anne.

    3. Thank you for letting me know how you are recovering, Tammy. I'm thrilled to hear that you've been cancer-free for 2 years! Yea!!!

      I did not like reading about your church experience in dealing with your health crisis. That is so sad that friends and co-workers were there before your church family. Did you address this situation with the church? A friend of mine at our church was just diagnosed with cancer last week. Nobody should deal with cancer, but this one is hitting close to me because she's younger than me and has children she is homeschooling. We just found out as a church body yesterday and today I've already received two e-mails with updates on her condition and someone letting us know that we will be informed of the family's practical needs. I was thinking about her when I read your story. My church is still somewhat new to me, but I'm glad to know they at least are handling this kind of issue in a very positive and proactive way.

      Tammy, I'm really glad you brought this subject up - the issue of church abandonment when going through a crisis or sickness. That is a very important ministry need.

      Barb would be thrilled to know you are finding her book helpful. I'll be sure to send her a link to your comment. She checks in here when she can.

      Thanks again for your comment, Tammy! It sounds like you're making progress both physically and spiritually. Woohoo!! :)

  3. Hey Julie Anne! would you consider a post/conversation about how we can serve our friends who are still in an abusive church? I posted a link to my facebook about mark driscoll, and was jumped all over by some of my friends who still attend MHC. I'm out of my mind with frustration as they just do NOT GET IT! It all flips back to ME and why "I'M" angry and sinful for exposing this pastor's sinful behavior! I'm SO frustrated by this, and i feel like God has given me a burden to be a help to others, but i keep getting kicked in the face and am really starting to get angry and bitter about it. Is there NO way to influence others? it seems so obvious to me now, but I too, was warned and totally blew it off, so ??? ugg.

    1. Hi Rebecca: Thanks for the idea. That is really a great one and I'm going to make a note of it. Briefly - if people are drinking the Kool-Aid - there's not much you can do. Sometimes it takes something that hits very close to home. In our church situation, it wasn't until people were asked to shun close family/friends that they got the big wake-up call. The response you got from your friends attending MHC is very typical. You threatened their pride and joy and they responded negatively towards you. That's a tough pill to swallow. I know how frustrating that is!

    2. Hi Rebecca, First know that you are not alone. Most of us that have gone through what you went through have the same results. What has helped me is to draw strength from reading and understanding God's word. Understand that we are in the last days and what we are experiencing what was told 2000 years ago was going to happen. The churches are filled with wolves in sheep clothing and friend will turn against friend and family against family. Rest knowing that God said if you are loved by this world you do not belong to him. To suffer for Jesus is not an easy thing to do. But know that God is still in control and that joy will come in the morning.

    3. Raymond, you speak from experience. Those are good words.


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