Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Round and Round We Go: More Court News!!!

We have a new update:  The other original mother on the case has now been voluntarily dismissed from the case yesterday.  WOOHOO!!!!!  I am so thrilled for this family!!!

Admin note:   My daughter and I have discussed this and because this case is so public, we have just gone along with that and have used our real names here.  But I have been careful about disclosing the identity of the other defendants (except for Meaghan who has now been posting publicly).  

When Chuck O'Neal filed the lawsuit, it made our names public in the courthouse documents which also meant that the public could access those documents.  I am normally a fairly private person on the internet.  Chuck changed that for me.  My kids tell me that you can Google search "Julie Anne" and see pictures/articles of me on the first page and pages and pages afterwards, as well as videos on YouTube, you name, it.  I can't hide.  OY - so much for privacy.  Thanks, a lot, Chuck.   But in the meantime, if I discuss the other former defendants, I will not be naming them.   In this discussion, I will be referring to them as "Kay" and "Jay". 

Shortly before the first hearing on May 21, 2012, we got word that the only male defendant "Jay" was voluntarily dismissed from the lawsuit.    And as of yesterday, his mother, "Kay", was voluntarily dismissed.

Since most of my readers have probably not read the legal documents, I thought it would be interesting to show exactly what  Chuck attributed to Kay and Jay so you can see what he calls defamation:

Their attorney, Herb Grey, did a fantastic job representing Kay at the hearing, noting several reasons why Kay could not possibly be charged with defamation, any one of which should have dismissed her from the case.  Obviously, Herb was compelling enough that the "other side" decided not to fight it anymore.  Let's see why.  I blanked out the names. 

Here are Jay's alleged defamatory remarks (keep in mind Jay was dismissed before the hearing):

Is the above defamatory?  What do you think?

And here are Kay's alleged defamatory remarks that Herb Grey defended.  Keep in mind that these comments were posted "Anonymously" and Kay does not ever recall making these remarks.

The link mentioned above shows the full context here.  You will also see that someone came to the defense of the pastor in the comment section.

Well, Congratulations, Kay and Jay - we're thrilled that you are now free from this mess.  Now you may resume normal life!   Praise God! 

Monday, May 28, 2012

Additional Former Church Member Has Been Sued!

I'll get to the subject of the former church member sued in just a moment, but want to make sure this point is told:  I believe that suing former church members is just an extension of the spiritual abuse.  How can that be?  Let me explain.

This is old news - the no-talk rule in spiritually abusive environment.  We are going to discuss it once again.  Please read this definition to make sure you understand the powerful effect it has on continuing the cycle of spiritual abuse.  This is so important.  Breaking this particular rule will often be the first step in getting out of the trap of spiritual abuse: 

No-talk rule
In abusive spiritual systems, people's lives are controlled from the outside in by rules, spoken and unspoken. Unspoken rules are those that govern unhealthy churches or families but are not said out loud. Because they are not said out loud, you don't find out that they're there until you break them.
The most powerful of all unspoken rules in the abusive system is what we have already termed the "can't talk" rule. The "can't talk" [rule] has this thinking behind it: "The real problem cannot be exposed because then it would have to be dealt with and things would have to change; so it must be protected behind walls of silence (neglect) or by assault (legalistic attack). If you speak about the problem, you are the problem. (The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse By David Johnson and Jeff Vanvonderen (Bethany House, 1991, 2005))

One of the most common characteristics of someone who is a spiritual abuser is they try to control their congregants and even former congregants.  Sometimes they try to control aspects of their personal life - as in what they can and cannot say.  In the church, if you talk about the problem, you are told that you are not obeying the authority God has placed before you, or you need to check the sin in your own heart, that you are being divisive, gossiping, etc.

When you voice the problem outside the church after leaving, you may be told that you are a Jezebel, have the sin of Korah, you are waging war with God and His church, slanderers, divisive, etc.   We, former congregants, have become the big "problem" in the no-talk rule.

For those new to this blog, my former pastor did not like me posting negative Google reviews about my experiences and had them removed.   This is an example of the no-talk rule.  I got tired of my reviews being removed and began this blog.  Within a few days of beginning this blog, I received my subpoena.  He did not want me to have this blog and to post my story because he knew it meant that the "problem" was going to be discussed.  In an unhealthy church, outside appearances are paramount and it ruins that perfect image by saying there are problems.  He was unable to get my blog removed as he had done with Google reviews.   Instead, he resorted to civil/legal measures to continue that spiritual abuse (no-talk rule) and used the lawsuit in order to force me and others into not talking.   

The original lawsuit included four defendants:  a mother and adult son, my adult daughter (Hannah), and me.  The adult son was recently dropped from the lawsuit before our May 21 court date, so that left 3 defendants remaining.  We had heard that they were going to subpoena another former church, Meaghan,  and received documents to that effect, but nothing happened, even though her name was written on court documents.

While normal people were enjoying this Memorial Weekend, Meaghan was finally served and got the formal notification that her former pastor was in fact taking her to court for saying her mind and for standing up against someone who seems to be trying to keep people from talking.

Meaghan was the first former congregant to leave her real name on a comment on this blog.  He apparently didn't like Meaghan commenting and soon after that first comment, my attorney was notified that Meaghan would be subpoenaed.  Doesn't it make sense that by suing the first person who left her name, he is sending the very strong message that if you dare to post on Julie Anne's blog, you, too, could be sued?  Are you getting the pattern?

How the No-Talk Rule was Enforced by the Pastor
I posted negative Google reviews ----->   pastor removed them
I began blog ------>   pastor sued me
Meaghan leaves comment on my blog  ------>   pastor sued Meaghan
I blogged -------> pastor amended lawsuit & added add'l "defamatory" phrases

I remember the first time I saw Meaghan's comment with her name.  My heart skipped a beat as I realized what a strong woman she was,  willing to stand strong in what she believes to be the truth.  Meaghan, I know there are so many who are reading this who are applauding you and your bold stance.

Note to my blog readers:  you've seen the pattern.  If you leave your name on a comment in my blog, you very well could be sued.  If you leave a negative review on a review site, you could be sued.  I want you to be free to voice your comments and I am absolutely fine with people using pseudonyms in comments - make up a name - no need to add an URL.  There is no way for me to track ISPs or personal information from people who leave comments here.  I don't want that fear to control you and keep you from talking if you want to share something here.
This method of bullying people into not talking by using lawsuits to keep quiet will only go so far.  There are over 970 reviews on the Google site now, approximately 940 are negative.   It costs $505 for the court filing fee. There are also most likely attorney fees.

Soon the congregants will most likely tire of seeing their church's name and pastor in the limelight for doing something they and most Christians know is forbidden in scripture.  Maybe it will eventually sink in that the church leaders they have respected for years (John MacArthur, Phil Johnson) absolutely disagree with lawsuits against Christians and they may not want to align themselves with a pastor who seems to be doing his own thing by disregarding the wisdom of so many.  

Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unrighteous, and not before the saints? Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world will be judged by you, are you unworthy to judge the smallest matters? Do you not know that we shall judge angels? How much more, things that pertain to this life? If then you have judgments concerning things pertaining to this life, do you appoint those who are least esteemed by the church to judge? I say this to your shame. Is it so, that there is not a wise man among you, not even one, who will be able to judge between his brethren? But brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers!

Now therefore, it is already an utter failure for you that you go to law against one another. Why do you not rather accept wrong? Why do you not rather let yourselves be cheated? No, you yourselves do wrong and cheat, and you do these things to your brethren! Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals,[a] nor sodomites, 10 nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.   1 Corinthians 6:1-11

A number of pastors have privately e-mailed me and told me they have sent Chuck e-mails encouraging him to withdraw the lawsuit.  It appears he continues to disagree with their wise scriptural counsel, in lieu of protecting image/reputation.    This is a principle that is completely against scripture.  God is not so concerned about personal reputation and image, but the heart.

My former pastor doesn't know me too well.   He may have thought that I would back down in fear after being subpoenaed.  Chuck, I know you read this blog.  I saw the pile of papers in front of you as you sat next to me during the court hearing.  (How could I miss my son's large drawing from the blog page you printed out? )   I do not fear men, I fear God.  I will continue to tell my story.  Now, more than ever, I am compelled to stand up - not only for those who were bullied at my former church, but for all spiritual abuse victims who have contacted me in the comment section and via private e-mail - some who are living in fear, afraid to step one foot in church because of the similar spiritual bullies they have encountered.

This is much bigger than BGBC.  It's about all of those who use their spiritual authority to bully others.  Thanks, Chuck, for suing me so that I have a platform to speak out against this atrocity in churches.  If you keep suing others,  it will be clear to all Christians and atheists alike what is going on.  Those who spiritually bully people do NOT represent Christ.

Do you see John MacArthur suing because of this?  or this?  or this?  (and there are lots more)  I think not. 

There is righteous anger burning inside of me.  These precious souls should not be living in fear, afraid of pastors, unable to trust even decent and true Shepherds.   They need to be able to be free from that fear, to be able to be in a place with love and grace and truth.  

Meaghan - the world is watching as our former pastor sues 4 women:  3 moms and 1 young lady.   I love you, friend, and we stand together.  God is in control. 


 Admin Note:  I am hosting eChurch temporarily while the normal hosting site, Wartburg Watch blog is temporarily down.   Pastor Wade Burleson offers an eChurch  - church service on the internet featuring praise songs, prayers, and a video sermon.  I've watched two services and found them very good and uplifting.  Wade Burleson has a blog and has posted about spiritual abuse and pastors who abuse their authority.  He has a sensitive heart.    Enjoy!!

Hi EChurch@Wartburg Followers,

We are looking forward to being online again soon. Until then, please enjoy these worship videos and Wade's sermon.  (From Deb and Dee of TWW)

Let It Rain (Michael W. Smith)

Awesome God (Michael W. Smith)

You Are God Alone (sung at Emmanuel Enid)

Scripture Reading: Hebrews 10:30-31

"For we know Him who said, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge His people.” It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God."

Wade Burleson's Sermon

Agnus Dei (Jotta A.)

Our Father, which art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy Name.
Thy Kingdom come.
Thy will be done in earth,
As it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
As we forgive them that trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
But deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,

The power, and the glory,

For ever and ever.


Media Inaccuracies: Setting the Record Straight

There have been some inaccuracies in news stories around the internet and I want to set them straight.  This post will be updated if I see more inaccuracies:

  • I am not single.  I am married and have been married to the same man since 1985.  We are still married and living under the same roof, all of our children are ours, no prior husbands, no step-children or children outside our marriage. 

  • As soon as we left BGBC,  we did spent a couple months looking for a new church before settling in a new church.  We loved that new church, but had to leave due to a job change.  Since moving to our new location, we have attended the same church for nearly a year.  At no point have we not gone to church as has been reported.

  • The ACLU has not taken my case, although they have commented on the case in various reports.  My attorney is Linda Williams. 

  • I never reported to anyone that Chuck O'Neal was a sexual abuser.  I do not believe that to be an accurate statement and haven't had any reason to question that he might be a sexual abuser.  Any reports you may have read that say otherwise are simply not true.  

  • I never stated that elders or elders wives looked through the closets of women from church to approve their clothing.  That statement was most likely lifted from the comments section of my blog and was incorrectly attributed to me.  I had never heard of that "practice" before reading the comment.  Perhaps that was done before my time, I don't know.  But I was not aware of that happening during our time there.

  • This part of the MSNBC article is incorrect:  "Court filings state that another defendant, Meaghan Varela, allegedly made accusations of child abuse against the pastor, which led to a December 2008 visit from the Oregon Department of Human Services. The social worker informed O'Neal's daughter that someone also reported that pornography was being distributed to children at church. "The allegations of child abuse filed by Meaghan Varela were extremely painful to my family," O'Neal's daughter said in a statement."         

    Julie Anne's comment:  This is ridiculous.  DHS never discloses who files reports and they certainly do not report what was said.  This is pure speculation on the part of O'Neal's daughter.  This same speculation was reported by Chuck O'Neal in his press release here:  "Just after the release of the before mentioned staff member, in Dec. of 2008, a member of this group called the police and the DHS to deliver a false report accusing Pastor O’Neal of physically abusing his own children and allowing pornography to be distributed to adolescents in the church.".   It is impossible for him to verify this with DHS (as they will not release it to him).  I find it irresponsible for MSNBC to report such information as surely they know that DHS holds in strict confidence the identity of anyone who reports a suspected abuse situation. 
  • The MSNBC article mentioned only one child who was sexually abused.  Chuck O'Neal's own court declaration mentioned more than one child when he used the word "siblings" twice.   Additionally, the sex offender's mother also used the word "siblings" to identify the sexual abuse victims.  There was clearly more than one child abused.  Who is minimizing this story to the press?  Also, the MSNBC article stated "inappropriate touch" by the sexual offender.  This is also not true.  He was charged with rape and other counts of sexual misconduct.  Why is this crime being minimized to the media when court records show otherwise? 

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Hyper Modesty in the Church, Part 3

Personal Note to the Young Adults and Conclusion

I know some of the young adults from my former church are reading this blog.  First off, I want to say that I care deeply for you and this message is sent from my heart.  You are part of the reason I keep this blog.  When my Hannah left, I became very concerned for all the young adults there.  You will not get guilt and shame from me.  I just want to personally tell you that if you got involved or are involved in sexual immorality or any other area of sin, I get the "whys".  You don't have to tell me.  There was never a way to measure up to those perfect standards.  It was an impossibility.   What we went through was not normal.  

Still speaking to those young adults:  I hope you will seek out people who show grace and unconditional love -  not the false love that says:  I will only love you if you wear a certain kind of clothes or if you behave a certain way.   That is not true love.  A true friend will stick by someone, even when they sin.  They won't ignore the sin, but they won't hammer it in, either.  They will model grace and offer opportunities to make things right.

Secondly, some of you may have shut God out of your life based on your experiences at the church.  That part makes me very sad and angry.   What you were taught was an impossibility to live day in and day out.  While you were supposed to have a shepherd guide you in your walk toward God, you may have been left wanting nothing to do with Him.   Please do not let your bad experience shape the path of your spiritual walk.  What you heard and saw was works and law, not grace.  It was nothing short of false teaching.  There are good churches out there and there are good pastors who make it their goal to help guide, not lord over you.  When you feel ready, please try again. 

Thirdly, I've been in touch with a number of parents who have since left.  Your parents love you deeply.  And if your parents are no longer at the church,  keep in mind they are probably in the process of coming to terms with what they went through.  They are certainly doing some soul searching as all parents do:  how did this happen, why did I go to this church, why did I stay there, how were my children affected by staying there, etc.  If it helps, please feel free to use this blog post as a conversation starter in your family.   Keep talking.  Keep extending grace to each other.

I have been so thankful for the talks I've had with my adult kids.   They need to know that we were not in a healthy church environment, that we missed the signs.   Showing our kids this kind of humility and giving them grace will be so helpful in the healing process for them and for us.

In conclusion, I want to once again go back to the modesty issue.  Sure, there are appropriate ways to remain modest, but not go overboard into the trap of legalism.  Modesty is a matter of the heart.  

But I say, walk by the Spirit, 
and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. 
Galations 5:16

We don't need modesty rules.  The Bible gives us guidelines on modesty and we also have the Holy Spirit to guide us.  God has given us common sense and he's also given us grace.  We do not need to act as Modesty Police to others as was done in our former church, pointing out each error in judgment if we wore something that didn't pass their test.  Living by example works far better. Women mentoring younger women gently and privately works much better than rules from the pulpit by a man telling us details on how to dress.  I remember feeling so awkward hearing a man talking how a female body should be dressed.  What was that all about? 

I remember the modesty issue became so much of a distraction that it was difficult to relax and enjoy time at the beach, or at a swimming pool or lake, or even walking through the grocery store during the summer!   I have five boys at home now.  We don't turn the channel when we see a lady in a bikini.  We don't cover eyes.  They know we are in the world and the world does not have have the same beliefs/standards we have for ourselves.  We live in an area where we swim a lot in the summer and we see a lot more skin than clothes.  It's been 3-1/2 yrs since leaving and we left all of those modesty rules behind.  It's interesting.  I don't see my boys looking at females (and their body parts) nearly as much as I did when we were back at the former church.  I'm sure they notice female bodies - what guy doesn't?  They know about lusting.  But they are not under modesty rules or policing anymore - they are enjoying the sun, the water, their friends - you know, the things that really do count:  people and relationships.

Finally then, brethren, we request and exhort you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us instruction as to how you ought to walk and please God (just as you actually do walk), that you excel still more.  For you know what commandments we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus.  For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality;  that each of you know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor,  not in lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God;  and that no man transgress and defraud his brother in the matter because the Lord is the avenger in all these things, just as we also told you before and solemnly warned you.  For God has not called us for the purpose of impurity, but in sanctification.  So, he who rejects this is not rejecting man but the God who gives His Holy Spirit to you.
1 Thessolonians 4:1-8 

I love how this verse focuses on what to do:  we should walk and please God through sanctification and we each have our own vessel in sanctification and honor.   When we focus on sanctification, holiness, we won't easily fall into the trap of sin as easily.   It seems that when we focus on pleasing God, the list of "don'ts" becomes obsolete because we already know how we should behave, how we should dress, how we should treat one another.  It really is simple.  Focus on God and things seem to fall into place beautifully.

I just got an e-mail that our neighborhood pool will be opening this weekend.  Time to pull out the swimsuits and have some fun in the sun!   Have a great weekend, everyone. 

Friday, May 25, 2012

Hyper-Modesty in the Church, Part 2

 Does Hyper-Modesty Lead to Lust?

Yesterday's post dealt with the subject of hyper-modesty with regard to how we dressed, the preoccupation of not showing cleavage, not accentuating a woman's figure, diverting eyes when seeing female joggers on the road, staying away from public swim areas and areas where people are dressed immodestly, etc.  I also discussed how we turned magazines over in the grocery stores that depicted sexual images or even suggestive titles in our aim to help protect our children from these visuals.  The lady who came to the pastor seeking counsel, but was transferred to a woman for counsel because she was immodestly dressed was also mentioned.  

In comments here on this blog and in personal e-mails, I've read about stories of rules and legalism which created lots of problems in churches.  Our church was no exception and I'll continue with more from our personal story: 

Look - - I get turning over magazines at grocery store check-out aisles.  Some of the images and even titles are inappropriate in an environment where children are present.  But a magazine is not a living, breathing soul.  It's an object.  Its "feelings" are not going to get hurt, unlike that lady who came to the church seeking help.

But you know what . . . . . I think the hyper-modesty stuff may have backfired.   I discussed earlier how our youth seemed to get in trouble with issues involving sex in unofficial youth groups or outside activities.  I've never seen a higher percentage of sexual immorality in young adults in any other church I've attended.  It is my belief that the hyper-modesty led to hyper-obsession with sex (including pornography).  

I've kept up with a number of the kids who were teens when we were there and some have shared with me.  Now they are young adults.  One person who was baptized while we were there is a male stripper/dancer.  I know of a female who does nude modeling.  Some of our young adults are now living with their boyfriends or girlfriends.  Some are having casual sex with with no real commitment.  Some have issues with pornography.  These are bold choices of sexual immorality that are being exhibited compared to the expected lifestyle of a young adult Christian.

For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not.    
For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want.   
But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.    Romans 7:18-20

In any church a percentage of young adults will walk away or test their faith, some trying alcohol, drugs or go through phases of experimentation with the world and all it has to offer.  The large percentage of young adults who have completely walked away from their faith and who are living a lifestyle completely different from their upbringing shows the fruit of that environment.  The fruit was rotten.  Was this caused by the rigid rules and legalism? 

Our adult kids are certainly not rotten.  They only reacted to the very strict/legalistic teachings.  Being caught in sexual sin, sitting through long meetings with the pastor, perhaps multiple meetings, getting spanked by parents (yes, high school students were spanked) and having more meetings with parents, and then hearing weeks-long series on Wednesday nights on the dangers of sexual immorality does not give one hope, but despair.

There was no way to measure up.  They felt there was no way to be a Christian.  If they felt they were Christian before, they became confused and thought they were on their way to hell because of their sin.  It was too difficult.  They couldn't stop sinning.  Why bother?  They convinced themselves they must never have been a Christian to begin with - that it must have all been fake and now that they know what a Christian is "supposed" to be, they know it is impossible to maintain that lifestyle - especially because they are so easily tempted by sin.  Do you see the thought patterns?

Evidently, I said something that highly disturbed someone during our last days.  I said that the spark of joy was absent from the eyes of our teens.   That didn't go over very well.  It was a very obvious sign of despondency to me.

The eye is the lamp of the body; so then if your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light.  But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!  Matthew 6: 22-23

Legalism does not produce good fruit. It produces complacency and an idea that it doesn't matter what I do, I cannot achieve Christianity.  This is the message I have heard from young adults (including my own).  This is not what the Bible teaches.  Christianity is not based on what you do or do not do.  It was a false message bringing despair and condemnation, not hope. 

Folks, this is part of the spiritual abuse that was going on - it was sending  wrong messages that turn people away from Christ, not toward Him.  So many of these young adults were not just experiencing merely a crisis of faith, but   completely abandoned the faith.  There simply was no hope.  Why bother trying?

 . . . . . to be continued

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Hyper-Modesty in the Church, Part 1

 Do You Have Modesty Police in Your Church?

Before we came to the church, our family had general guidelines on modesty.  It wasn't a big deal.  There were no rules, but I shared with my daughters to generally try to wear clothes that didn't draw attention to female body parts or cause distraction.   I tried to show them clothes that exemplified beauty.   It wasn't set down as rules, but was discussed as we experienced life, while shopping and trying on new clothes, maybe while watching something on television, or perhaps watching a situation where a young lady is dressed provocatively and we can see how others look at her, or rather her body parts instead of looking at "her", etc.  This worked well for us then. 

God gave us His word for guidelines.  His Holy Spirit works in us as we read His word.  Here's one such verse that talks about modesty - - - wait, I just checked - it doesn't say modesty.  It's talking about holy living.  Imagine it, God doesn't need to spell it all out in detailed fashion, but let's the Holy Spirit work in us:

 So think clearly and exercise self-control.  Look forward to the gracious salvation that will come to you when Jesus Christ is revealed to the world. So you must live as God’s obedient children.  Don’t slip back into your old ways of living to satisfy your own desires. You didn’t know any better then.   But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God who chose you is holy.   For the Scriptures say, “You must be holy because I am holy.”  1 Peter 1:13-16

What does holy dress look like?  We don't have it clearly spelled out before us, but we know that God wants us to be holy.  Is God breathing and living through His word in our lives?  If so, then I believe He is able to speak to us and guide us.  

 For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.  Hebrews 4:12

At our former church, we were instructed to stay away from public swim areas and places where people were dressed immodestly.   I wondered how we would have dealt with that issue if we had those same rules while living in Virginia Beach where we lived years ago.  I thought back to that time.   Because Virginia Beach is a touristy beach town, it is normal for people to be wearing beach attire as they walked in town and shopped.  By beach attire, I am referring to cut-offs and bikini tops, etc.  We dressed in shorts, sleeveless shirts, etc, (no bikini tops for this mama).   I don't think this kind of pastor or church would have been able to co-exist in that town. 

From the pulpit, men/boys were instructed to look the other way if they saw a woman jogging on the sidewalk or side of the street.  This was brought up a number of times.  I did not like the results I saw in my family and others.  It almost became a game to look for female joggers so they could quickly look away and act holy.

Another rule was about swimming.  There was to be no mixed gender swimming - unless they were very young children.  The Smith family disobeyed this rule.   We go to a Christian family camp each year at a lake and we had been going for several years before attending this church.  I remember the first year we went to camp after attending this church and tried to imagine if we obeyed all of these new rules, what it would be like for our family at this amazing lake camp.  I remember struggling with this modesty issue while there at camp, knowing that our pastor would be greatly displeased knowing that the Smith family was participating in co-ed swimming with their parents' approval.  We didn't discuss this obvious conflict with the kids, we just did what we had been doing for the previous years - we swam and had a great time.  The camp has their own basic dress code, such as no bikinis and they preferred one-piece suits for ladies.  It had always worked for us. 

However, in the church environment and out of the church environment, we became Modesty Police.  If we saw sexually explicit magazines in the grocery aisle checkout line, we turned those magazines over so that people couldn't see the front cover.  Our children were trained to be on the lookout for inappropriately dressed people whenever we watched shows on tv or movies.  If something inappropriate showed up on the screen, someone immediately got up and turned the channel or fast forwarded the scene.    If we saw inappropriately dressed people in smaller confines, ie, Baskin Robbins, it would be safer to wait outside until those people left before entering the store.  Those are the kinds of things we did in order to avoid immodesty in the world around us and "protect" our children.

I wonder how many of us remember taking our boys to the mall or strolling through department store's lingerie section or walking past Victoria Secret.  How many moms covered our boys' eyes so they wouldn't see the mannequins in their sexy bras and thong panties.   How many of you former BGBC members just cringed reading this?  Did Julie Anne really type "sexy bras" and "thongs"?   Yes, I did - lol!  I might be pushing that comfort line for some of you.    I wonder how our boys felt when we physically covered their eyes with our hands?  Did they find it embarrassing to have their mother's hands across their eyes in front of pure strangers?

Modesty was a bid deal at church.  On one occasion, a young lady came to the church during a time we were having Praise and Worship practice.  This was after hours on a Saturday.  The pastor answered answered the door, but quickly excused himself and got a woman from the Praise and Worship team to talk with her because he claimed she was dressed immodestly.  I wonder how she would have felt knowing the pastor did not talk to her because she was not dressed properly?   I now wonder what the lady from the Praise and Worship team told her as to why the pastor didn't want to talk to her.   Is this not sending the message:  "I can't talk to you because your outward appearance does not measure up to my Christian dress code standards?"  Ouch!

Try to imagine why a stranger might come to the door of a church?  Perhaps she was someone in dire need of help - maybe a financial situation, perhaps emotional or maybe she just someone to talk to.  If someone got the impression that they wouldn't be accepted because of their attire - I wonder how that would make them feel loved and welcomed?

One year a very new Christian came to the church camp in WA.   This sweet young Christian was cognizant of the church's modesty issues and asked her friends if what she was wearing was appropriate for the camp out.  Her friends told her she was fine.  When she got to camp, she was given an obvious stare down by a prominent woman in the church.  She was puzzled.  Eventually, she went up to the woman asking if there was something wrong with the way she was dressed.  The woman told her she was dressed very immodestly.  This was the same outfit that her other friends had said was fine.  Imagine the shame and guilt this young Christian felt at being scorned for dressing "immodestly".   There are many, many more stories like this of Modesty Police issuing verbal scornful citations to church members.  You get the idea.

 . . . . to be continued . . . .

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Do I have an unforgiving heart?

David, a blog reader,  has been having dialogue with me and others in the comments section on previous posts and I wanted to highlight some of his comments and address them publicly.  We were discussing his thoughts that focusing on my personal stories shows a lack of forgiveness.  I asked David what forgiveness looks like and what he sees in me that shows lack of forgiveness.  I recopied his post and left off some sentences in order to try to condense a bit, but the main idea is here:

Julie Anne,

This is tough because I find that you are courageous and true to your convictions.

The length of time, this has been going on gives me the impression that there is an indefinite time frame before any ending resolution is possible for you and your former Pastor.

I think, when the focus of your Blog alters away from the negatives you experienced from your former Pastor and Grace Bible Church, healing will take place. I seems like things are getting too personal for healing to take place.

Even though I can see you have a nice smile, how is it possible for you to experience real joy as long as this blog keeps the memory of the pain you have gone through alive?

My Pastor is out of my life but in your case your former Pastor is still very much in yours.

For me I had to stop venting and replaying the things my Pastor did to me and our church. When that finally happened I went from two hours sleep a night to 7 hours a night.

I sense that you feel like you have been targeted when you attempted to understand where your Pastor was coming from. My Pastor used the word "Truth" and nothing else in describing his theology.

I can't imagine the pain you have gone through, but I do know the pain I went through and the burden of Un-Forgiveness was even harder for me to bear.

I have to be careful even now, because it isn't doing me any good thinking about the past.

What we all don't want to see happen is for Letterman and Maher to joke about 2 people who profess the Gospel attacking each other.

This should motivate Pastor Chuck to seek a truce and pull his Lawsuit if you agree to withdraw his Name and Grace Bible from your Blog.

Find comfort in knowing that the Holy Spirit is deeply working on your former Pastor.

I think you blog has greater things to focus on than your former Pastor.

In Christ


Hi David:  Thank you for your response.  I'm glad I asked you those question because I think you are missing the point and perhaps have misunderstood the purpose of this blog.  The purpose is not to go on and on about the abuse, but to mention it in personal stories in order to clearly identify it so that those who were involved can see it plainly for themselves.  I try to also include what a healthy church looks like and provide scriptures to back up my conclusions and beliefs.   (Keep in mind that when beginning this blog, I was fully aware that others might stumble across it via Google searches, etc.  This is how I learned so much about spiritual abuse - by reading the personal accounts of others on other church survivor sites like mine.)

I vented the first year or so after leaving.  I am not holding a grudge and don't feel that I'm bitter.  It didn't bother me in the least to sit less than 2 feet away from the pastor yesterday for 2 hours in the courthouse.  I hoped that he would look my direction so that I could acknowledge his presence as any decent human being would, but that did not happen.

I am angry about what spiritual abuse does to people.  I am angry about the long-lasting effects I have seen.   And now, after this media attention, the resolve in me is even stronger to expose this dirty secret after receiving so many stories in my in box and in the comments section of this blog.  People are so hurt and scarred and want to move on, but some are stuck.  Some entirely walk away from church . . . . . . forever.  Let's try it this way.  Our church thought we had the best methods of evangelism and went out weekly, door-to-door, all throughout the towns spreading the gospel.  Meanwhile, people were emotionally and spiritually abandoned within the church.  What utter hypocrisy.  Do we sit and do nothing?  Really? 

I pray for Chuck and his family and the church.  I care for all of them.  I was part of that church family for two years and I am doing this because I love them just as family/friends would gather around to confront an alcoholic and tell him/her:  there is a problem, you need help, I will help and support you, but you first need to see the truth about what you are doing to yourself and others.  This is true love that speaks the truth, even when it hurts.

I think they are blinded.  They seem to have set themselves up on a pedestal in the false belief that they are better than so many other churches and this prevents them from hearing common sense from even reputable religious leaders they respect, such as Phil Johnson, who urged him to drop the lawsuit.  Several pastors have privately e-mailed me telling me they have sent Chuck an e-mail urging him to drop the lawsuit as well.   Why won't he listen to godly men?  He has shown no willingness on his part to resolve this.  He doesn't care about Letterman or Maher joking, he would probably call that joking as being persecuted for Christ's sake.  His pattern in the past would be that the only way this will be resolved is if I publicly apologize for everything I have posted and come humbly back to him.

Let me be clear, David.  I will not apologize for exposing the truth.  I will not abandon those for whom I am standing.  This has become much bigger than I ever intended.  Now I represent a voice for many more than ever before.  Many others through the connections of the internet and media have discovered my blog and have also identified with the stories told here.  I feel honored to stand strong for my brothers and sisters in Christ who are too weak to defend themselves (and I so appreciate the many, many people behind the scenes who give me strength and continue to pray for me, because I do have moments of weakness). 

This is not about the relationship between Chuck O'Neal and me (although I would welcome restoration of our relationship).  This is about spiritual abuse in the church which must be exposed. This is about telling people that Christ is not represented by pastors who use their position to manipulate and control others and their personal lives.   I repeat what I have said over and over again - - - there are souls at stake!  

"But if you cause one of these little ones who trusts in me to fall into sin, it would be better for you to be thrown into the sea with a large millstone hung around your neck."  Mark 9:42

Monday, May 21, 2012

Court News

The hearing was moved later than scheduled and lasted about 2 hours.  Our attorneys were very well prepared and were simply amazing.  The plaintiff's attorney told the court they were dismissing one of the defendants from the lawsuit and also some of my phrases (we still need to see the court documents).  These developments are positive.

The judge asked the attorneys to write up a "summary", no longer than 5 pages each due by a specific date and then the next (and hopefully final) hearing will be July 13.  

I'm feeling good.  

My attorney just sent me an e-mail:  this blog has over 100,000 hits.  Yup, I guess this blog is of public interest.  Thank you all for your support!

Court Day

Psalm 91
He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.

I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress,
my God, in whom I trust.” 

Surely he will save you from the fowler’s snare
and from the deadly pestilence. 

He will cover you with his feathers,
and under his wings you will find refuge;

his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. 

You will not fear the terror of night,
nor the arrow that flies by day,
nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness,
nor the plague that destroys at midday. 

A thousand may fall at your side,
ten thousand at your right hand,
but it will not come near you. 

You will only observe with your eyes
and see the punishment of the wicked. 

 If you make the Most High your dwelling—
even the Lord, who is my refuge—
then no harm will befall you,
no disaster will come near your tent. 

For he will command his angels concerning you
to guard you in all your ways;
they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone. 

You will tread upon the lion and the cobra;
you will trample the great lion and the serpent. 

“Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him;
I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. 

He will call upon me, and I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble,
I will deliver him and honor him. 

With long life will I satisfy him
and show him my salvation.”

Regardless of the outcome of this court case, I am resting on Psalm 91.  I know that everything I posted on Google Review was the truth as I knew it.  Anything could happen at the court today.  I am prepared either way God is my judge.  And He knows my heart.  That's really all that matters to me.  

God is not pleased by those who call themselves shepherds and harm the sheep, leaving them emotionally and spiritually, and sometimes physically abandoned.  This message needs to be heard and those harmed sheep need to have a voice.

Thank you for your prayers and support!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

One More Day!

My attorney passed along more details about the court hearing tomorrow:

The hearing will be held at the Washington County Courthouse, Hillsboro, Oregon in Courtroom 303C 9:00 AM.

The hearing is open to the public.  You are welcome to attend.  If you plan on coming, will you either send me a note privately or leave a comment?  It would be fun to know ahead of time what to expect.  Thanks!

If you are coming and only know us through the blog, we would love to get a chance to meet you.  Please try to find us.  You will easily recognize me by my red hair and I'm over 6 feet tall, and people say that my daughter, Hannah, is just a younger, shorter version of me (it's true!).  All of the defendants in this lawsuit have greatly appreciated your support and prayers. 

Last night, I met Justice and Justice's family for the first time.  It was a sweet time - sharing more stories and yet talking about what God is doing through this experience.  I was given a gift and will share part of it with you over time.  I was so touched.  

I'm going to church now.  Have a time of prayer, reflection, and thankfulness - - for all that He has done, for all He brought me through, taught me.

I feel incredibly rich and blessed today.  I am not at all worried about tomorrow or the next day.  As long as I know that I am right with my God and hearing His voice, all is well with my soul. 

Ohhhhhh . . . . that reminds me of the perfect song.  Yea!  This is also my all-time favorite hymn.  I almost feel guilty using it in the event it might give the implication that my "load" even compares to what Horatio Spafford went through - the person who wrote the lyrics.  My load does not!

As a musician, I can easily get distracted by pitch issues or any number of things.  I want to encourage you to try to remove any distractions you may see and try to appreciate the heart of worship here - the heart-felt lyrics,  and the beautiful voices used as God's instruments of worship. 

This video is a bit long.  Bill Gaither gives the history behind the song - it's an amazing story of sadness and grief and that struggle to overcome and the assurance of God.  If you are unfamiliar with the story, do listen to it in its entirety.  The singing starts around 2:00 and Guy Penrod begins around 3:00. 

Have a wonderful Sunday!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Trying Church Again

My kids have been having fun this week tracking their mama around on the internet and have been greatly amused that they can type "Julie Anne lawsuit" in their Google search field and see their mama.  I'm not sure what I think about it.  Not only has the mainstream media picked up the story, but other groups as well:  civil rights, atheist/agnostic, Huffington Post, liberal groups, women's lib, etc.  We've been reading through many comments.   There are a lot of people who say:  why not just go find another church.   Many, many on these more liberal sites expressed:  "And this is why I left the church".     

I find it interesting that the man who accused me of profanity against him and the church has publicly accused me of waging war against God and the church.  Really??   I'm waging war against God and the church?   No, people are abandoning churches because of hyper-authority and spiritual abuse . . . . some never to return.  Now tell me who is waging war?

 think on that thought for a little bit . . . . . . . !!!!  

Those who have commented:  "why not just go find another church".  They are thinking in very simple terms - if you don't like the church, move along, without understanding that it can have similar psychological issues as someone in an emotional, sexual, or physically abusive relationship.  The end result is sometimes the same.   Universally,  abuse survivors will tend to have trust issues and control issues they will have to work through. 

This reader expresses the problem so well.  What now?  How do you find a new church?  How can you trust a new pastor?

I disagree that when you are in an abusive church, you never go back to one. Some of us take more than one hit to realize you walked right back into it, and be careful not to do it again. I think it has something to do with the dance of a narcissist. They can turn on the compassion, and tone down the abusive rhetoric.
In my last situation, I knew of this Pastor's reputation, but didn't see it displayed. I thought "we all learn and grow - he's probably changed." Nope. And yes, now I am afraid to try another church. We are home churching for now, with the group who left. And I don't think there really is a church here (I've lived here all my life and I know what's out there) that is OK. One very near me - I love the Pastor's wife, but feel uncomfortable with the Pastor.
There is something about every church that I have issue with, whether it's their doctrine, or name it claim it, or finding glitter on their hands (It's a sign!!) and crowing like a rooster, or pastor seems to not look you in the eye when he talks to you but seems fixated on other areas (even when you're dressed modestly and not particularly curvy), another pastor seems wayyyy too interested in the children and raising red flags all over the place, I could go on and on and on. I have to be careful that I'm not taking on the attitude of the abusive church that said "we're the only place" but be discerning at the same time.
The church is a mess! And I am hurting and have no idea who or what to trust any more. My main prayer is "Lord, help me... help us ... help our family." I have a son who doesn't know if he believes any more. It is heartbreaking. The one thing *I* know is that God is there ... and He knows right where I am.

Anonymous speaks for so many people in that comment.  And please note once again - the son is obviously having a crisis of faith, too.  People . . . . . this is happening in churches?!?!!!!!  

It is very difficult to find a church after spiritual abuse.  Let's open it up for discussion here.  What are signs of a good church?  What do you look for in a pastor?  What do you look for in the congregation?  I think the opposite is good to point out, too:  signs of an unhealthy church, spiritually abusive pastor (although I probably have a lot of that listed in the blog, but if you think of others, please post a comment).  Let's talk.   After we get a good list going of both positives and negatives, I will save the list on the blog.  This is something very practical to do and can help a multitude of people who are struggling at this point.  Who wants to go back to an abusive church?  Some people may not be able to risk it emotionally.  

I want to let you know that each week, Pastor Wade Burleson offers an eChurch  - a pre-recorded church service which is posted each Saturday at the Wartburg Watch blog.  Take a look at the new service here.    There are praise songs, prayers, and a video sermon.  I've watched two services and found them very good and uplifting.  Wade Burleson has a blog and has posted about spiritual abuse and pastors who abuse their authority.  He has a sensitive heart for people like us.  If you are one who has no desire to go to church after your experience, give this a try.  It could just be the balm to soothe your soul for this season of healing.  

I have been so touched by the personal e-mails of support and especially for those who have reached out to me to tell me your personal story.  Some of you have not told your story to anyone before and for you to reach out to me shows great strength and a desire to get healed.   I'm honored that you trusted me.  Keep telling your story.  Make up a name here and start telling your piece by piece as things come to your mind.  We will rally around you and offer support.  The stories of abuse are all so similar whether in my church on the West coast or someone's church on the East coast. 

And there are also those who have e-mailed me telling me that you have contacted our former pastor.   Good!  We must speak out when we see wrongs being done.  Thank you for being proactive!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Walk the Talk!

Countdown:  3 days until court hearing.  Drawn by Resident Artist, Age 9

This is a fairly new blog, but there are a lot of new readers recently and I would like to welcome you!  Never in my life would I have imagined this.  But as my new pastor told me:  it is what it is and I'm rolling with it.  

This blog shares my experiences and of what is commonly known as spiritual abuse.  I hope this blog can be of help to you and will spotlight the deeper issues of spiritual abuse so that people can identify what it is, learn from their experiences or the experiences of friends and loved ones, and heal as they rediscover what true religion is, what a true shepherd looks like, and most importantly, learn who God really is to them. 

This blog allows a platform for readers to comment and share their stories and sometimes I like to highlight them.  Today, I'd like to highlight two older comments from last month:

AnonymousApril 30, 2012 9:50 AM
We were never sought out after we left either. I am certain that the reason given for our absence had nothing to do with the real reason we left. Suffice it to say that the pastor/elders did not want it widely known that they had discriminated against a disabled child.

AnonymousApril 10, 2012 10:05 AM
Intimidation is one of the main tools used by the leadership of this church. Over the years I watched them intimidate and oust single mothers, widows, the mentally ill and families of disabled children. It doesn't surprise that after these "successes" they turned their rage to more powerful and spiritually strong individuals (like you!).

What does God's word say about true religion and the care of the less fortunate? 
Pure and genuine religion in the sight of God the Father means caring for orphans and widows in their distress and refusing to let the world corrupt you.

The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord,
And He delights in his way.
Drawn by 9-yr old Resident Artist

We no longer live in the Portland area, but I have a lot of friends from around the area who have been sending out notifications on their Facebook wall regarding an event that is happening in Portland tomorrow.  The Pregnancy Resource Centers of Portland sponsor a walkathon "Steps for Life" each year to raise money for their organization which helps pregnant women in real practical ways.   Each year, our former church has participated in this event.  

My family used to attend this walk.   This is a special day in which we celebrate life:  the life of the born and the unborn, the young and old,  the healthy, and people with special needs.  All life is precious, designed by God for His purpose and to be respected.

However, the last time I attended this walk was not such a celebration.  I was there with my kids.  It was about 6 months after we had left the church.  Let me tell you about our last time at the Steps for Life event.

The event is opened with a prayer.  The person leading the opening prayer was my former pastor.  As we walked around Pioneer Square downtown Portland, my children spotted children from our former church.  These children used to be among their closest friends.  But we were being shunned.   I told my children that although their former friends may not talk to them,  we were always to treat people respectfully.  I told them that being respectful means acknowledging people with a greeting when they see someone they know.  This is common courtesy.  My children did just that.  I hung back at a distance.  I knew how I would be treated by the adults, but figured I would not prevent the children from talking to them if they wanted to.  I had prepared them ahead of time.  It felt awkward.  

The adults didn't turn and walk away, as they had earlier, yet it seemed they  were uncomfortable with our presence.  So odd - Christians not liking other Christian's presence?  What is that?  Their expressions showed it all.  They purposely kept their eyes diverted away.  The mothers of the children at first let our children meet, but then gently tried to guide them back.  They were not rude, thankfully.  We've been treated worse, but still.  

I eventually went toward the group to get my children.  I tried to look into the eyes of my former friends.  I addressed them by name and said it was nice to see them, but they kept their eyes from connecting with mine and continued to look forward.  I did not want to play that game, so I just greeted them and then walked away.  I do remember one lady (who has since left) who slightly nodded.  I think she was struggling.  I have a hunch she will e-mail me after reading this to see if it was her.

Very soon, after my former had finished with the opening prayer, he returned to the group and they began the 2-mile walk together.  It was such an odd feeling.  Balloons floating, families together, happy people, and this group from our former church, people I had sung with, played with, prayed with, eaten with, and camped with continued their ridiculous shunning.  I still had no clue as to why we were being shunned.  Nobody had told us we had done anything wrong or why we were in "church discipline" or being excommunicated.

What strikes me now is how hypocritical this was.  This church says they honor and respect life, yet they treated my children and me like dirt.   The pastor  prayed about the value or life and respecting life, yet disregarded ours as rubbish by the way they treated us. 

I suspect they will be there Saturday.  It's a tradition.

It's easy to get up on Saturday morning with families, meet at the church for donuts and caravan the 20+ minutes to downtown Portland.  It's easy to watch your pastor lead the opening prayer.  It's easy to walk the 2-mile trek wearing signs saying that you respect and value life. 

But what about during the rest of the year?  How about walking in the trenches with a family with a difficult case of special needs, or a family who has mounting medical issues requiring childcare and transportation.  Sadly, since beginning this blog, I've read more stories than I was aware of. 

Was that same respect shown to elderly, widows, children with special needs, families with financial burdens?  I knew stories of when I was there, but now . . . since this is in the media . . . more stories are coming to light of being abandoned, neglected.  My heart aches.

This kind of false religion - showing a public image of respecting life, yet neglecting the true needs of the hurting, needy at your own church is a big problem in many churches, not just my former church.   It is a common sign to look for in churches.  Pay attention to your church.  Are they walking the talk?

The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord,
And He delights in his way.
Psalm 37:23