The issue of domestic violence in the church is disturbing. How are churches handling these cases? In this post, we discussed domestic violence within some Sovereign Grace Ministries (SGM) churches. As most of you are probably aware, SGM is in the midst of a lawsuit filed by 3 families whose children were sexually abused and their cases were mishandled. It is important to look at patterns we see in churches regarding abuse. Here is an important pattern to note: many pastors keep the abuse situations (domestic violence, sex abuse, pedophiles) in the church and do not notify anyone outside the church for help; ie, police, CPS, etc.
The following quote is from John Piper. He is discussing: Does a wife submit to abuse?
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
The in-house handling of domestic abuse situations is not isolated to Sovereign Grace Ministries. Take a look at this video from John Piper. It is less than 4 minutes long. Notice how he tells women to put up with abuse and never mentions outside involvement from civil authorities. Let us not forget - physical violence is a CRIME.
Here it the transcript of the above:
Part of that answer is clearly going to depend on what kind of abuse we’re dealing with here, how serious this is. Is her life in danger? Or is this verbal unkindness? I’m not sure what the person who asked the question had in mind. So let me just talk about different kinds.
A woman’s submission to her husband is rooted in the word of God, calling her to be—for the Lord’s sake, for the Lord’s sake—submissive to him. Which means she always has a higher allegiance, namely to Christ.
Therefore Christ’s word governs her life. And Christ has many words besides “Be submissive.” “Be submissive” is not an absolute, because her Lord has other things to tell her, so that if the husband tells her something that contradicts what the Lord tells her, then she’s got a crisis of, “To whom do I submit now?” And clearly she submits to Jesus above her husband. The reason she is submitting to her husband is because of her prior superior submission to the Lord.
So if this man, for example, is calling her to engage in abusive acts willingly (group sex or something really weird, bizarre, harmful, that clearly would be sin), then the way she submits—I really think this is possible, though it’s kind of paradoxical—is that she’s not going to go there. I’m saying, “No, she’s not going to do what Jesus would disapprove even though the husband is asking her to do it.”
She’s going to say, however, something like, “Honey, I want so much to follow you as my leader. God calls me to do that, and I would love to do that. It would be sweet to me if I could enjoy your leadership. But if you ask me to do this, require this of me, then I can’t go there.”
Now that’s one kind of situation. Just a word on the other kind. 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.
Every time I deal with somebody in this, I find the ultimate solution under God in the church. In other words, this man should be disciplined, and she should have a safe place in a body of Christ where she goes and then the people in the church deal with him. She can’t deal with him by herself.
So the short answer, I think, is that the church is really crucial here to step in, be her strength, say to this man, “You can’t do this. You cannot do this! That’s not what we allow. That’s not what Christ calls you to be.”
I can’t go in to all the details, but I would say to the woman, “Come to a church that you feel safe in. Tell them the case. Let the leaders step in and help you navigate the difficulties.”
(Audio and video of this answer is found at John Piper’s site here.)© Desiring God
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Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good.
1 Peter 2:13-14
Who does the above verse apply to? Does it apply to pastors and Christians? Is this another one of those verses that so many abusive churches/pastors are choosing to ignore?
Do you see any mention of notifying authorities in the video or transcript? No! But we do see that he is recommending that a wife endure abuse, both verbally and physically . . . . and then seek help. But from whom is she to seek help? From church leaders. What if her life is in danger? She should go to the church? Is the church qualified to deal with intense family crises where there is physical violence?
At what point would they recommend going to authorities? In the stories I have read, there is not one mention of seeking outside help. In fact, many times outside help is discouraged. It is as if the women have to endure the abuse and hopefully the church will get it resolved. I have been getting e-mails from women who are following their pastors' recommendations and guess what . . . . the abuse continues. There is no resolution.
Again, I ask, at what point do church leaders encourage someone to notify authorities? What risks are they willing to subject women to as they handle these very difficult situations? Why are they failing this moral obligation?
Here's a quote from another popular Christian leader, John MacArthur of Grace Community Church, as he discusses Dialogue on Divorce. I am not in full agreement with his opinion on divorce and abuse, but the primary issue I want to take note of is how he tells the wife to leave an abusive situation. Again, there is no mention of reporting to authorities to convict the spouse of the real crime he has committed. Why is that?
You know, I can’t counsel a mother who says, “What am I going to do? This man has committed incest with my child and he beats me up and etc. or beats up the children and so forth and so on. Do I just sit there and take it? And the chairs on my head, and the stuff he throws at me, and the cigarette burns on my arm, and battered wives and all this stuff? What do I do?” Well, certainly there is nothing in the Bible that says you just stand around until you are just beaten to a pulp. You know, God has built into the human being a certain sense of self-preservation. Right? And it’s normal to separate yourself in that kind of situation. And maybe that’s what Paul is thinking about. There may come circumstances where divorce occurs, but if it isn’t on biblical grounds, that’s it. I mean, you can remain unmarried or be reunited.”
“But I would say that’s only a possibility in that text. I really feel that if we are obedient to the word of God in that kind of a situation, God would give us the grace to endure a lot more severe things than we think. So, what we do is this; we counsel people this way:if you’re in an abusive situation, there’s not adultery involved, it’s just abusive, cruelty, or something like that–I don’t think alcoholism is necessarily in the same category. But where there’s beatings, where it affects you or the children, there’s nothing to say that you shouldn’t step away, get away to preserve your own health, and your own safety, and your own security. You don’t need to stay there and just be beaten to a pulp. God’s given us a self-defense mechanism. But I don’t think that’s grounds for divorce biblically. I think you have to hang in there and that’s what makes great prayer warriors People who can turn that kind of a thing into a draw nigh unto God kind of relationship. You know, when all your family has forsaken you the Lord will be your family.
In the secular world, if a crime is committed, the situation is investigated, abusers are usually interrogated, possibly arrested and go through the judicial system, facing consequences which may include jail time. Why is the church intervening in these civil matters, preventing abusers from receiving the justice they deserve for committing crimes of physical violence against their wives? Why are pastors putting themselves above the law by not allowing our civil courts to get involved in these CRIMES.