Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Rant: When Do Church Pastors/Leaders Call Civil Authorities?

Blogger Alex Grenier of Calvary Chapel Abuse published an article about former NBA player and Calvary Chapel member, Nick VanderLaan.  I have highlighted important points below. Take a look at the whole article here.

Former NBA player Nick VanderLaan, a recent money-giving member of Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa, tells his story of being detained against his will and then arrested for speaking out at a meeting to question the presence of the controversial Ergun Caner.
He attended a special meeting at CCCM featuring Ergun Caner as the guest-speaker. Previous to the meeting, Nick expressed his concern to CCCM Leadership, believing he had the right and responsibility to do so as a giving member of the Church. His concerns were basically ignored.
At the meeting, Nick stood up to challenge Caner’s presence. He was non-violent and merely spoke out and spoke up. Calvary Chapel Leadership knew who he was. Nick and his family were known quantities, attended a trip to Israel with Chuck Smith, counseled with pastors there, dedicated their kid at the CCCM pulpit etc etc.
He was immediately surrounded and detained by the Calvary Chapel goon squad (my opinion, my description of the security guards and CC personnel based off of their subsequent actions).
The goon squad cuffed Nick up, took him to another part of the church, denied him bathroom and water and detained him against his will for a prolonged period of time.
Santa Ana police arrived later and arrested and charged Nick.

This incident was not during a church service, but during a conference.  In the 36-second YouTube recording below, you can hear Ergun Caner seemingly inviting audience response by his words:  "So if you've got a problem with me, hit me up and tell me what I did wrong."

VanderLaan's response was: "I have a problem with you.  You're a liar, you're a fraud,  you need to repent."

Some might not find VanderLaan's method appropriate.   Some pastors have complained to me about my blogging.  Oh well.  Speaking out against against abuse is a subject that many find uncomfortable, but there is biblical precedent.  And if those in authority are ignoring issues, we might see more of this kind of response.

The District Attorney eventually dismissed the case, but I'm sure it came with a cost to the VanderLaan family.  You can find attorney's letters, police report, court records and the complete story at Ephesians 5:11 Blog.

But as I was reading this article, what struck me was how fast police were involved in this situation.  As we've been reading about so many abuse cases where pastors or church leaders refuse to report crimes (including cases at Calvary Chapel), look how fast they reported this church disruption as a CRIME by getting civil authorities involved and consequently Nick arrested.  

So disrupting a conference is worse than child rape or sodomy, or spousal abuse?  Give me a break, people.  I see how it is - they call the police when it benefits them, but when there are real crimes like sex abuse in the church or spousal abuse, they do NOT call authorities at all.   It makes me sick - BLECH!

* * * Update:  Nov 5, 2012:  I was just sent a link giving more background information on Ergun Caner which helps to explain why Nick felt justified to speak out at the meeting.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Narcissistic Pastors

This is a scarf I was knitting while attending
BGBC and with the ladies of my knitting group.

I think one of the fascinating things about spiritually abusive environments is that abusers are so masterful, sometimes they don't even need to use words to induce guilt in their people.  

Our family had attended a church for six years prior to BGBC and at that church, I started knitting with a friend which formed into a knitting group.  We met together once a week at various locations to knit/crochet, had coffee/tea a nice time of fellowship.   We kept up with each other's families, shared prayer requests, discussed what we were learning from the Bible, sermons, etc.  It was an enjoyable and relaxing time.  I still attended this knitting group after we left that church and was now attending BGBC.  At that point, the knitting group had extended to ladies outside the church and so it really wasn't a closed group - just a sweet group of ladies who wanted to knit and encourage each other.

What's interesting is that when I was attending BGBC, I felt guilty each time I went.   Why did I feel guilty?   What is wrong with knitting with friends?  What is wrong with uplifting conversation and prayer?  My pastor had never said that ladies shouldn't attend knitting groups.   I was keenly aware that there were no ladies Bible studies at this church and also remembered that the only gatherings of ladies that I recalled were for baby showers or bridal showers.  I had heard he didn't like ladies Bible studies because ladies like to gossip.  So, I guess I naturally assumed that this meeting of knitting ladies would not meet his approval.  However, I felt a strong allegiance to this group because I started the group a couple years earlier.   These ladies were still my good friends and so I continued to meet despite that weird feeling of guilt.  But it really bothered me that I couldn't shake that guilty feeling when I knew there was nothing wrong with what I was doing.

Later, I did find out that my former pastor did know about me meeting with my knitting friends (insert creepy music here:  how did he find out?  did he seek this out?  did someone "tattle"?  why was this important to him?).  He was also displeased that I was attending this group and mentioned it to my friend who was on staff, although it was never once mentioned it to me.  

I think narcissists are masterful manipulators.  Even though my pastor did not say a word to me about my knitting group,  I most definitely felt his scorn.  Below is comment from Pastor Ken from a while back where he discusses the narcissist and how they have difficulty with people participating in activities outside the church and explains really well why I felt the guilt.  You see, me meeting with my girlfriends, using knitting needles in our hands, manipulating sheep fiber truly was a threat to the wolf.   

KenJuly 17, 2012 12:10 PM
Another piece of the puzzle might have to do with the core disorder of many abusive leaders:  narcissism.
A narcissistic leader manages and orders those in his sphere of influence around the primary purpose of meeting the narcissist's needs and desires. 
Any expenditure of energy or affection by a member that flows outside the world of the narcissist (such as time spent with outside family, friends, birthday parties, family gatherings that sometimes occur on Sundays (!), the loving acceptance of those "outsiders" who hold different religious, political, or ethical beliefs, etc.) or the narcissist's church, towards others, and not towards the narcissist, is viewed as a loss and threat by the narcissist.
Therefore, the normal, healthy social investments of affection, time, money, socialization, etc., towards "outsiders" are strongly discouraged, if not disallowed.  Of course, not all abusive leaders are narcissists and False Teachers, but I think a great many of them are.  Also, not all abusive leaders are False Teachers -- some are at the least just bad pastors who shouldn't have gone into ministry, and at the worst, very insecure bullies who have followed a path of least resistance into a religious profession, where they can act out their bullying nature on unsuspecting, uninformed church folk.  There's my two-cents!


Monday, October 29, 2012

Are Christian Leaders Condoning Islam's Rules for Wife Beating??

A reader sent this to me and I found it very shocking that some of our modern-day celebrity pastors seem to condone behavior that Mohammed endorsed - the beating of wives.  Here is what my reader had to say:

Pastor Ken Garrett is absolutelright when he says:  "Our churches will never be safe places until they truly live by a no-tolerance policy towards all forms of physical abuse/violence.  Until then, we can kiss goodbye to all the abused children and women in our communities that we would like to/hope to minister to with the love of Christ and the grace of the gospel--why would a loving God bring a hurting person into a church community in which there is a "one smack rule"? As the defender of "orphans and widows," he takes this kind of stuff very, very seriously.  Again, despite what any religious leader says, we are all responsible to DO THE RIGHT THING, especially when people are being hurt."

"despite what any religious leader says, we are all responsible to DO THE RIGHT THING, especially when people are being hurt." 

John Piper, C. J. Mahaney, Chuck Smith, John MacArthur - all have their followers and pastors that look to them. They all give Q & A's, have conferences and give their opinions. People have become accustomed to "ask the leader for the rules to follow" instead of people taking responsibility for doing the right thing.

I was reading some Middle East news today and happened to see this article (it brought to mind the blog post and discussion of Piper's video). 

‘Husbands, beat your wives so they will mend their ways,’ Egyptian cleric advises
Abd Al-Rahman explains Islam’s rules for smacking one’s spouse, ‘as a last resort before divorce,’ citing practices of prophet Muhammad
Egyptian cleric Abd Al-Rahman recently explained on Al-Nas television how a man is permitted to beat his wife.
"A good woman, even if beaten by her husband, puts her hand in his and says: 'I will not rest until you are pleased with me.'  This is how the Prophet Muhammad taught his women to be, " Al-Rahman said in comment aired in August, according to a translation provided by the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI).
"Islam instructs a man to beat his wife as a last resort before divorce, so that she will mend her ways, treat him with kindness and respect, and know that her husband has a higher status than her," he said.  
"I say to every husband:  Do not rush to beat her whenever a problem arises, O servant of Allah, Allah said: 'Admonish those of them on whose part you fear disobedience, refuse to share their beds, and beat them.  One should not beat out of anger."
 Al-Rahman said that beating on's wife is a matter of discipline.  He said that the Prophet Muhammed beat one of his wives, Aisha, in order to instill discipline, not because he enjoyed it.  
(JA note:  the quote in red font screams Patriarchy which is prevalent in conservative Christian church teachings and especially in some groups in the homeschool movement.) 
Jesus had a totally different view of women. You don't have to be a feminist to understand that. But you do need to read your Bible and think for yourself if you are in a church that has a "one smack rule". 

Thanks much to the reader who sent me the above.  I'm sure a lot of people are familiar with televangelist and 700-Club host Pat Robertson's reputation for saying foolish things.  In fact, after living within 30 minutes of Christian Broadcast Network's (CBN) headquarters in Virginia for six years I can safely predict that he will have some sort of statement to make about the "Frankenstorm" Hurricane Sandy which is projected to pound the Eastern seaboard tonight.  (I am not the only one waiting for a comment from Pat - check out this Google search - lol.)  After reading the words from the Egyptian cleric above, it reminded me of a video I had seen of Pat Robertson a few weeks ago which I found shocking.  I don't give Pat Robertson a lot of credibility, but the problem is he has a huge audience who gives him credibility and respects his words regardless of how foolish they are.  The video is less than two minutes.  I feel so sorry for the female co-host, Terry Meeuwsen.  If I were Terry, I probably would have had a few colorful words to say and then walked off the set while the tape was rolling . . .  but that's just me.   

I do not believe most pastors would condone wife beating, but the troubling pattern I am seeing is the mishandling of violent crimes by some church leaders.  When a wife reports to her pastor that she is suffering from spousal abuse, one of the patterns we are seeing is that church leaders deal with the "sin" in a so-called biblical fashion, but fail their moral obligation to report the crime to civil authorities.  

Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God.  Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God's servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God's wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God's wrath but also for the sake of conscience.

(Romans 13:1-5 ESV)

The design of class action lawsuits allows for more victims to be added.  Attorney Susan Burke who is representing the Sovereign Grace Ministries sex abuse victims has publicly stated she would like to hear from others who have been victims of abuse and so logically, it makes sense that this case could grow to include spousal abuse victims (read my post on SGM spousal abuse).  If spousal abuse is not eventually included in this case, it is only a matter of time before a spousal abuse lawsuit against a church/church leaders occurs.  I hope it does, as it would send a clear message to pastors that more must be done to protect against spousal abuse than merely dealing with the "sin" in-house.  Crimes must be reported.  

I will continue to say this on my blog:  when pastors and church leaders fail to deal with abuse appropriately, they are spiritually failing the sheep in their care.      I have heard countless stories of people affected by abuse of some kind and then the mishandling of abuse cases by church leaders which may result in the victims wanting nothing more to do with church and some having a crisis of faith.  This is spiritual abuse.  They are victimized by the original abuse and then by their own church leader.  This is W.R.O.N.G!

My thoughts and prayers to East coast friends/readers.  I remember all too well the anticipation, the collecting of essentials, the waiting, tracking the storm, the afterstorm mess.  Stay safe, friends!!  

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Let's Discuss the Sovereign Grace Ministries' Press Release

I am posting the newest press release by Sovereign Grace Ministries about their lawsuit below, but first is a personal note to the SGM survivors and their families: 

After reading the SGM press release, I was angry.  I feel really bad for you to have to read this press release.  Please do NOT take those words personally.  The SGM church leaders are caught up in the necessity of defending themselves and their image.  They are in damage control mode.  I saw it before in my church lawsuit and it's happening now in this SGM lawsuit.  If you and your children were at the heart of the matter from the beginning, this lawsuit never would have happened.  They had years opportunities to resolve these situations, handle them appropriately; yet they chose to handle the abuse cases in their "biblical" way.   I believe the world will be shocked to see how "biblical" these cases were handled.   You must know that people believe you.  I believe you and will continue to allow my blog to be a place for your voice.  My heart grieves for what you and your families have experienced.  I trust that God will do His work in this lawsuit in bringing the truth to light and for you to have justice finally served - the justice that God clearly acknowledged in Romans 13:1 regarding civil governing authorities.  Thank you for being bold in speaking out.  I know from my lawsuit experience that people were able to connect with my story and am confident that there will be many, many victims who will connect with your story as well as churches who will see this case and evaluate the safeguards they have in place at their churches.  Your very sad stories will make a difference in the world.  I applaud you!

Updated Statement on Reported Lawsuit

Please be aware of the following press release.
October 26, 2012
Statement by Tommy Hill Sovereign Grace Ministries Director of Administration Re: A Civil Lawsuit Filed Against Sovereign Grace Ministries Oct. 17 in Maryland’s Montgomery County Circuit Court
Though not yet served, Sovereign Grace Ministries (SGM) leadership has obtained a copy of the civil lawsuit filed last week against SGM and several pastors of its associational churches. This recent complaint makes broad allegations that SGM pastors were negligent in providing spiritual counsel and pastoral care in situations involving persons who had previously suffered child sexual abuse. It is important to note that it does not allege any act of child abuse by a pastor or staff member of SGM or of an associated church. SGM is not in a position to comment on the specific allegations at this time, but we are beginning a careful legal review of each allegation. Upon initial review it appears the complaint contains a number of untrue or misleading allegations, as well as considerable mischaracterizations of intent.
Child sexual abuse is reprehensible in any circumstance, and a violation of fundamental human dignity. We grieve deeply for any child who has been a victim of abuse. We want to minister the love, grace and healing of God to any who have suffered this horrific act.
SGM is committed to integrity and faithfulness in pastoral care, as are the pastors of local congregations.  We take seriously the biblical commands to pursue the protection and well-being of all people – especially children, who are precious gifts given by the Lord and the most vulnerable among us. These biblical commands include fully respecting civil authority to help restrain evil and promote righteousness as Romans 13 instructs us. SGM also encourages the establishment of robust child protection policies and procedures based on best practices.
SGM churches are separately organized and constituted in their respective communities. They voluntarily partner together for certain aspects of their broader common mission: to plant churches, develop resources, train pastors and serve international ministries in order to proclaim the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We ask that you please join us in praying that God guides and leads all of us in these challenging circumstances, ministering His grace, comfort and peace to all who are affected by this situation, and that His truth would prevail.

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I imagine that the attorney(s) for Sovereign Grace certainly had input into the wording of this press release, but as I have been reading it, a number of things strike me.  I will quote from the document and make comments below each quote.  

This recent complaint makes broad allegations that SGM pastors were negligent in providing spiritual counsel and pastoral care in situations involving persons who had previously suffered child sexual abuse. 

I'm not sure which cases they are referring to when they say "situations involving persons who had previously suffered child sexual abuse."  I find that odd.  According to the bulk of cases I am familiar with, the sex abuse incidences at SGM were first-time incidences.   If they didn't mean to imply all children, it seems they would have said "situations involving some persons who had previously suffered child sexual abuse."  Can you imagine the victims' families reading this implication that their children were "damaged goods" prior to their abuse experience at SGM?  This sure seems like they are misleading people to believe these children already were suffering from child abuse cases prior to SGM.  I find this implication troubling.  Do the officials at Sovereign Grace Ministries realize that in "not" responding in depth to the actual lawsuit (hopefully they’ve been served by now), but making statements like this, they raise even more questions about their "pastoral care" and give more evidence in the alleged pattern of their revictimizing victims?

It is important to note that it does not allege any act of child abuse by a pastor or staff member of SGM or of an associated church.  
Nobody has said that it ever did - the complaint never did, neither has it been mentioned anywhere on any of the survivor blogs that I have read.   But again, it's all about image and I understand how important image and damage control are (because of my lawsuit), so I suppose they had to issue that disclaimer.   blah, blah

SGM is not in a position to comment on the specific allegations at this time, but we are beginning a careful legal review of each allegation. 
Hmm, they could have saved themselves a whole lot of time and money if they would have taken a look at each allegation in light of the offenses being "CRIMES" instead of "SIN."  Things might be different now, eh?   It's a little too late, SGM.  But that's okay, because now the whole world is watching.  And I sure hope that your faux pas will be an example to many other churches have and are going through sex abuse cases (thinking of Calvary Chapel, etc).

Upon initial review it appears the complaint contains a number of untrue or misleading allegations, as well as considerable mischaracterizations of intent.
At this blog, I do not side with alleged abusers, but consider the allegations of the victims as truthful, and I try to put myself in the victim's shoes.  I understand abuse and the thought processes and confusion, the bargaining, justification, anger, etc., of the survivors.  This statement sends me through the roof.  It is basically saying that the victims are lying.  This is a slap in the face to the victims who are trying to say there is a process within this organization of churches that has allowed sexual crimes to be committed without real consequences to the perpetrators.

Child sexual abuse is reprehensible in any circumstance, and a violation of fundamental human dignity. 
Really???  You don't say!??   Again, if SGM truly believes that, then we would have seen action taken place.  Show me the action, people!!

We grieve deeply for any child who has been a victim of abuse. 
Grieve = cause great distress to

That is a very nice sentiment, SGM.  It's not working for me.  To grieve deeply, as a church leader, requires action.  Where was the action?  By action, I'm not meaning damage control and cover up.  

We want to minister the love, grace and healing of God to any who have suffered this horrific act.
How so?  How have they demonstrated love, grace and healing?  What I have seen mentioned in these very detailed stories is an almost obsession to get the victim and perpetrator back in the same room for forgiveness/reconciliation.  What about the care of the victim's family?  The emotional concern?  What does "healing" mean?  How would God define "grace" for a victim and their family?  

SGM is committed to integrity and faithfulness in pastoral care, as are the pastors of local congregations. 
So often we use familiar words so casually.   After having gone through a court case, I understand that attorneys use words very carefully.  Let's take a look at the definitions of these words.  A word of warning to victims of SGM  - - - - seeing this hypocrisy could make you very angry.  It's making me angry and I was not even a member of SGM.   Look at how the SGM church leaders are trying to present themselves to the world - as men of integrity and by their faithfulness in pastoral care.  I guess I'm a little biased because I have read the abuse stories and now personal e-mails and phone calls with survivors.  I just want to scream.

the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles; moral uprightness 
the state of being whole and undivided 
Faithfulness:  loyal, constant, and steadfast 
Care:  1 the provision of what is necessary for the health, welfare, maintenance, and protection of someone or something 2 serious attention or consideration applied to doing something correctly or to avoid damage or risk 

We take seriously the biblical commands to pursue the protection and well-being of all people – especially children, who are precious gifts given by the Lord and the most vulnerable among us.  These biblical commands include fully respecting civil authority to help restrain evil and promote righteousness as Romans 13 instructs us. 
Ok, I'm getting ticked off now.  Romans 13?   No, sorry, I don't think so.  Any quick reading of the victim's stories will show that pastors/church leaders  DISCOURAGED the victims’ families  from taking these crimes to authorities.  Assuming those are accurate (and I do), that means that SGM network pastors interfered with the reporting of crimes to authorities.  The wanted the abuse to remain in the confines of the church - taken care of  in a "godly, "biblical" fashion.  In fact, the accounts of the crimes were to be kept inside a very tight circle.  Families were told to not discuss the incidents to anyone but church leaders.  Anyone outside the victims' families and church leaders who discussed the incidents were labeled as gossips and we all know that to gossip is a sin.  This is absurd.  Actions speak louder than words and I am so glad that this is going to court because I have no doubt the world will be shown that SGM demonstrated little to NO desire to get these crimes reported to civil authorities.  

I have said it before and I will say it again and again:  the pattern in abusive churches is to theologically separate "SIN" from "CRIME."   You just don't hear the word "crime" from these pastor's mouths, because if you did, it would mean they needed to involve with civil authorities.  It's all about sin for them:  repentance and forgiveness.  What about the other "R" word:  restitution?  

I posted this comment on an early post and it fits here:

We must make note of the patterns in abusive churches so others can be warned. Surely God would not be pleased with man usurping the authority He designed in Romans 13 where it says that we are to be subject to governing authorities. It's like there is a power trip going on - - - the leaders feel they "own" their congregants and that they could do a better job in dealing with the issue than anyone else outside the church. 

SGM also encourages the establishment of robust child protection policies and procedures based on best practices. 
Robust:  strong and healthy; vigorous 
• (of an object) sturdy in construction a robust metal cabinet.• (of a process or system, esp. an economic one) able to withstand or overcome adverse conditions • (of an intellectual approach or the person taking or expressing it) not perturbed by or attending to subtleties or difficulties; uncompromising and forceful the country's decision to bow to UN pressure was preceded by a robust defense of its policies he took quite a robust view of my case.• (of action) involving physical force or energy a robust game of rugby.

Whose best practices?  Best practices I have heard about include notifying parents of sex offenders in the church so they can safeguard their children.  The factual accounts I have heard or read are that parents were never notified of sex offenders.  What about the Care Groups?  What safeguards were in place for those who were watching children in care group homes?  According to what I have read have been very serious lapses of common sense AND pastoral oversight with regard to protections for children, going past to at least 1987.  If there were truly "robust" policies in place then and now, there would be no lawsuit.  Hello?!

SGM churches are separately organized and constituted in their respective communities. 
Yes, this setup we have seen among other churches outside of SGM sometimes has failed to protect congregants when leaders do not have appropriate accountability and oversight.  This can lead to all sorts of abuse among congregants.  You all get to read the fallout of this on my blog.  

We ask that you please join us in praying that God guides and leads all of us in these challenging circumstances, ministering His grace, comfort and peace to all who are affected by this situation, and that His truth would prevail.

Finally - - a statement with which I can agree.   - - including the leaders whose negligence and mishandling of the situations inflicted a revictimization of these then-children and their families. Even as I pray for justice, I pray these pastors discover the real grace of God they so desperately need, too.

photo credit: Ferran. via photopin cc

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Domestic Violence: Do Pastors Know Best?

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.  

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The BGBC Google Review Soap Opera

Some readers have been watching the Google reviews on my former church and sometimes give me a "heads up" if they notice new or strange activity.  I guess it's like a form of warped entertainment?   haha   Pass the bon bons, I've got on my loungewear, let's go.  Anyway, I've had a few laughs at the ongoing changes.

Google has changed their rating system a bit.  I notice reviews are disappearing.  At one point there were over 960 or so reviews - keep in mind most of those were from the Streisand effect from the media attention - people who had never visited the church wanted to get their $.02 in about a pastor who suesd mothers and their adult children.  Now there are 678 total reviews.   I grabbed the screen shot of the Google page above because it has changed so much.  I wonder how many man-hours Google staff has wasted dealing with the reviews from my former church?  

Someone notified me that Hannah's (my adult daughter and former defendant in the lawsuit) review was missing.  I checked and also asked another friend to check and we could not find her review.  She had updated it after our court victory back in late July.  Why did Google remove it?  Did someone flag it?  A couple days later, it returned.  Strange happenings!

One other thing - I cannot find my review anywhere!  What's up with that?  I won the court case and my review should be there.   So, should I do a new review?  hmmm . . . . decisions . . . . 

Peppermint Patty is a current member at the church and it looks like she revised her review within the last week:

I have a few comments to make about Patty's review.  We see right away that she also calls people who left reviews, "God-haters".  That is pretty judgmental.  As discussed in an earlier post, I counted "hate" seven times in current church member Liz's old review (pictured below).  The way Liz and Patty use this "hate" word makes me think this phrase is commonly used, especially in reference to former church members.  Ouch!  I don't consider the word "God-hating" to be very kind or loving; yet, they try to convince us in their reviews that they are a Christ-honoring congregation committed to reach the lost.  I wonder how the "lost" would feel if they knew of this kind of talk among this "Christ-honoring" congregation.  

Secondly, it appears that Patty is reprimanding the large amount of people who left negative reviews and who never attended the church.  Well, that's very interesting.  Patty didn't seem to mind when her own pastor along with other members used the Google review forum to review ME!!!  My name is and was never up for review.  Have they, too,  violated Google's review policy?  Maybe so.  I haven't checked, but it makes no sense to allow reviews to be posted that aren't reviewing the business in question (oh, and of course they rated their review of ME as 5 stars so as not to sabotage their own church's rating - - I don't think the 5 stars was because they really like me - BOO!)   

Finally, I noticed that Liz has a new and improved review posted.  This is the 3rd review that I have been able to get a screen shot of.  I missed one.  Anyway, I thought it would be fun to do a little comparison.  It's a lot more fun analyzing Google reviews than discussing sexual abuse, spiritual abuse, and spousal abuse, isn't it?   Well, I need the diversion, so here goes:

Just eight days ago, on October 15, I posted about the following in a blog post:

The above review "mysteriously" disappeared after my post drawing attention to it.  Funny how that works.  (We noticed similar patterns at the church website, too.)   Liz then posted another review, but I didn't get a screen shot of it.  The following review (3rd review) is posted below.  I think it remained online maybe 1 or 2 days before it, too, disappeared.

And finally, today I noticed this new review was posted.  I don't know when it was originally posted as I don't check Google reviews daily.  Anyway, if you've been counting along with me, we are up to 4 review revisions in 8 days by Liz.  Has the church really changed that much in 8 days?  Probably not.

Look how much it has changed! The latest Google review entry is quite short and apparently Liz has added a fan - now 4 out of 30 people found her review helpful.   I wonder what tomorrow brings on:  As the Google Review World Turns.   

I'll be sure to keep you updated.  If you have any observations on the reviews, I'd love to read your conclusions.  My readers are usually quite sharp!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Spousal Abuse in Sovereign Grace Ministries Churches?

“Never be content with your current grasp of the gospel. The gospel is the life-permeating, world-altering, universe-changing truth. It has more facets than a diamond. It's depths man will never exhaust.”     CJ Mahaney

CJ Mahaney quoted above is the head of Sovereign Grace Ministries (SGM) and was recently named in a lawsuit along with several others by sexual abuse victims and their families for the mishandling of sex abuse cases within the church (failure to report, etc,).   What kind of life-permeating, world-altering, universe-changing gospel is CJ Mahaney reading in which he misses the essence of what Jesus Christ stands for:  love?  I often find the key ingredient missing from those who abuse their positions of authority is their capacity to truly love.  Love listens to the cries of hurting people in their flock, not just the voices of their favorite celebrity pastor buddies who endorse their books and speak with them at big-name conferences.  

There's another problem that has been surfacing which hasn't generated a whole lot of attention.  Hopefully, people will take note of this issue because it is a problem - the problem of spousal abuse.  What is this "thing" that causes SGM leaders to behave this way with regard to abuse?  I want to take a look at that key issue.  

When dealing with abuse, the secular world does not blame victims for the abuse they incur.  The secular world does a pretty good job of clearly identifying abuser and victim in plain terms.  The abuser is clearly the guilty party and the abused is the innocent party and victim.  Yet, in SGM world, we find that they treat victims as if they play a part in the whole process, not necessarily as an innocent victim, because they, too, are sinners.  You might need to re-read that again.  It is hard for me to even wrap my head around such a thought.  

Remember - in Sovereign Grace church environments both sexual abuse and spousal abuse were not labeled as "crimes" - they were issues of "sin" which was to be dealt with at church and under the guidance of church leaders/pastors.  People were told they should not go to authorities to report any incidences. Once the leaders felt the issue was "resolved" at church, the matter was considered a thing of the past.   

It is vital to look at the mindset of how SGM leaders view sin in order to see how they respond to victims of abuse.  Kris, the co-moderator at seems to have a good grasp of how SGM views sin with regard to abuse.  Her thoughts also match up with what I have observed in reading the many personal accounts at her site as well as personal communications I have had with SGM victims and former members in the past year.  Reading this brief summary below (Source) will help explain in SGM-speak why a 3-yr old who was sexually abused at the age of 2 "needed" to meet with the perpetrator for reconciliation.  ACKKKKKKK - I still have a hard time typing this.  It is just MIND-BOGGLING!!  Who DOES THIS!!!  Anyway, check this out and you will see why wives who are abused would have a really tough time getting adequate help or care in the SGM environment.  Noel's story is referred to in the article. 

Deeply embedded in the SGM mindset are some assumptions:

1. All sins are just as vile in the eyes of God.

2. One of the clearest signs of “rebellion” is when a person sees himself as an injured party, because no injury that can be perpetrated against the person could ever surpass the horror that the person’s own sin is in the eyes of God.
3. The clearest sign of a “repentant” person is eager confession of wrongdoing.
Taking those three SGM assumptions, let’s examine Noel’s pastors’ response to her family’s situation. In light of these assumptions, I think we can more clearly understand a bit of what went through those pastors’ minds as they offered more sympathy and support to the perp rather than the victims. Even though the pastoral responses are basically incomprehensible to a normal person, they sort of start to make sense when you think of it in this way:
Because of SGM’s belief that each of us must always be “the worst sinner that we ourselves know,” we basically give up our rights to ANY victimhood, no matter how heinous the crime committed against us.
In other words, even though what happened to Noel’s family was absolutely horrific, SGM’s foundational teachings would say that Noel’s only legitimate “biblical” response would be to examine her own sinfulness and see herself as “the worst sinner” she knows. Her pastors would see it as their duty to direct Noel’s attention first of all to her own indwelling sin, her own wretchedness in God’s eyes. I believe they sincerely think that this is “bringing the Gospel into” everything they do. For them, “the Gospel” is firstly and foremostly about our own sin.
But instinctively, we know that something is jacked up in this view. God’s own Word would tell us that He does see some sins as having broader and more lasting consequences than other sins. Yes, all sin is an abomination in God’s eyes…theoretically. But we all know the REALITY, that if I go out and kill someone, there are far more ramifications all the way around than if I lie by calling in sick to work one day when I’m not actually sick and just want to go shopping with my friends. Both the murder and the lie are sins in God’s eyes and both are wretched, but if you lie to me, I’m probably going to be less upset than if you kill someone near and dear to me.
In SGMville, though, this normal human reaction – one that the even the Bible would seem to support, if you examine how God outlined so many very specific laws and guidelines governing behavior for Old Testament Israel – is circumvented. It doesn’t matter if you’ve been the victim of a liar or a murderer. In your SGM pastor’s mind, you’ve got NO RIGHT to see yourself as a victim, of any sort. In order to “bring the Gospel in,” they’re duty-bound to remind you of your own sinfulness, like it’s some sort of tonic for the normal grief that you might feel because of the ramifications of the sin that was perpetrated against you…like somehow, if I as the victim can just focus on my own badness, I’ll forget that someone molested my child.
So OK. In SGMville, all sins are created equal.
Now, enter the perp. Perp expresses sorrow and remorse for his sin. He truly IS the “worst sinner that he knows,” so such a mindset comes easily and naturally to him. In the eyes of his SGM pastors, he automatically then becomes the “more righteous” person, since his response is the only “truly biblical” repsonse that they can find acceptable.
It gets worse if the victim stands up for himself/herself in any fashion. SGM pastors immediately see this as unforgiveness, which of course is a sin, which then makes the victim even WORSE than the remorseful (and therefore righteous) perp.
Again, I did not think of this myself. Someone else initially posted these general thoughts. But I thought these were some brilliant observations that did far more to shed light on Noel’s pastors’ really twisted and bizarre behavior than just about anything else.
To me, this helps to make sense of why, in SGMville, the victims are minimized while the perps are protected. It’s because in SGMville, the only thing that is really righteous is seeing oneself as “the worst sinner one knows.” If one has had a crime – particularly a heinous crime like child abuse – perpetrated against one, there is NO HONEST WAY that one can authentically and enthusiastically embrace “worst sinner” status in one’s thinking. One instinctively knows that someone else’s sin (in this case, one’s perp’s sin) is greater than one’s own sin. So one naturally raises objections to embracing “worst sinner” status.
SGM pastors sense this and seem to hone in on it, interpreting standing up for oneself as a sign of pride and sin and unforgiveness.
Meanwhile, the perp is over in his corner crying his genuine tears of sorrow. Because he truly IS the “worst sinner he knows” at that moment, he is more righteous, and hence more worthy of protection.  

Susan Burke, the attorney representing the families of the victims in the lawsuit was recently interviewed on the Janet Mefferd radio show and has heard of other victims and expects to hear from more.  (Janet Mefferd Show)

Attorney Susan Burke has mentioned above that she would like to speak to others who have experienced spousal abuse while at a Sovereign Grace Ministries church.   Please contact Susan Burke: or 202.386.9622  

Brent Detwiler reports he, too, has had people contact him since he first reported the story:  

I can vouch for this myself.  Since last Wednesday when the story broke, I’ve been contacted by women whose children were sexually abused or they were physically abused by their husbands.  They don’t know who to turn to for help.  In their cases, the pastors did nothing to prosecute the abusers.  These women experienced the same kind treatment by their pastors as alleged in the lawsuit. 
I fear there are many cases of spousal abuse in Sovereign Grace Churches that have been terribly mishandled by SGM pastors.  This too must be investigated.  I want to encourage any woman who has been battered to get help.  If your pastor did more to protect your abuser than you, or counseled you against contacting the police, or confronted you for being unforgiving, or told you not to separate, then please speak up.  Such abusive pastoring must stop.  I am glad to help you, confront your pastors for you, and put you in touch with people who can uphold you.  

Below are a couple of comments I have found specifically regarding spousal abuse.

10/17/2012 6:35 PM PDT
I would love to know who to contact regarding abuse in SGM ministries. I was a member there for over 20 years and just recently left. The counsel from the pastors I received after going to them for help was criminal. I was involved in Spousal abuse and they questioned me on whether I had forgiven my spouse or not. They questioned me and never called authorities. They told me I could not call the police. No counseling was offered to us and no one questioned him. I went to them numerous times.  (Source)

JA note:  "PDI" mentioned below is the former name of Sovereign Grace Ministries - People of Destiny International.  I took the liberty to add paragraphs for readability.  The following comment is taken from   

Pia says:October 20, 2012 at 10:54 pm
Just finished listening to the interview.  I have been far removed from PDI/SGM for many years now but hearing about all this is bringing up so many painful memories for me.  One thing Susan said was that people who need professional help are often discouraged from going to secular counselors and to mistrust anyone who is a secular authority.  Boy do I remember that PDI/SGM rule really well!  For almost 10 years in the ’80s and ’90s, I endured domestic abuse from my husband and was continually told by my pastors to just “forgive” and just “continue to submit.”  Instead of re-telling my story here, I went back to a blog entry I submitted to SGM Survivors on July 18, 2011, and I hope it’s OK if I re-post part of it here.  I believe the message I gave at the end of my post is more relevant than ever and I really want those who are still afraid of coming out into the open to realize that NOW IS THE GOD-APPOINTED TIME FOR JUSTICE!
“I remember calling John Loftness, Gary Ricucci, Larry Tomczak,etc.–men I looked up to and who were my pastors at CLC and bosses when I was a loyal employee at PDI. ‘What do I do if I’m being physically abused by my husband?’ was what I wanted to ask them.  Only John Loftness (whom I so respected and loved) bothered to call me back.  And even he could not give me a straight answer. For years, even after I left PDI, I carried my shame and guilt in secret for obviously not “cutting it” as the perfect PDI wife and being unceremoniously kicked out (after my divorce).
I also carried so much hurt and anger because no leader…not anyone I reached out to anyway…bothered to really help me or give me wise counsel during that crucial period in my life. The best help eventually came from a secular counselling center for battered wives. For years, it was ingrained into me by my leaders, ‘Do not go to secular counselors or professionals…come to us, we have a corner on God’s truth, we will tell you exactly what you need to do.’  For almost 10 years, I followed their instructions to the T and still got abused.
The first time I went to a therapist, my sisters had to trick me into seeing him, saying I was going there for the sake of one of my sisters. That man probably saved my life! That my PDI leaders acted like they were the experts on every single area and could tell me how to live my own life (because only they could accurately hear from God for me) was a lie I cannot now believe that I completely bought into. I was a magna cum laude graduate with a degree in Economics from George Washington University (I am now an Economics teacher). But that was before I sold my soul to PDI. By the time I left the system, I was a completely broken woman. Lost all my fire and passion for the Lord. Lost all my trust in church leaders. Lost my self-respect, dignity, sense of worth, etc., etc. I thought I was stupid and I thought I was going crazy.
Now that these latest events are unfolding and the big Humpty Dumpty (C.J.) who sat on his high lofty wall (whom I once thought was simply untouchable) is finally falling…and as I watch all the king’s horses and all the king’s men desperately trying to put Humpty together again…I do have to say, “Thank you God!”  Thank you, on behalf of all the faceless, nameless victims of this once “powerful empire” for validating all our voices…finally!  Thank you for showing so many of us that we weren’t crazy, wrong or sinful just because we didn’t agree with the system. In fact, in my case and in the case of so many, we were dying a slow death…and leaving was a matter of our survival–and that of our kids!  Thank you that there are finally intelligent and caring lawyers, journalists, high-profile Christian leaders, professional counselors–sane, normal, healthy people–who are now peering into the hell hole I was once a part of and are starting to blow the whistle and crying out loudly, “Foul!” for all to hear.
For me, of course, it is many, many years too late. I can put my name out there, without hiding behind anonymity, and freely state names of my former leaders–because all this is so so behind me. None of them can ever touch me again. But for all those–the many, many silent victims who are still in so much pain because of sexual abuse, child abuse, spousal abuse, etc. that were allowed to continue within the powerful “no-talk” system of PDI/SGM, silently suffering still behind closed doors–let these latest events be an encouragement to all of you.
This is the time of your vindication! Speak up and tell your story! No one can shut you up now! No one can tell you you are crazy and you’re just “exagerrating” or “seeing things.” No one can accuse you of gossiping when all you ever wanted was just for people to know how much you were hurt and damaged by your leaders. I know more people are reading these blogs than there were back in 2007. Many people here are hearing my story for the first time perhaps. Here is what I want you all to know: the stories here, at least mine and so many others that I personally have heard from, are all true! In fact, if you go back and read them all (which will take you days and days), you will hear horrendous details of all kinds of abuses at the hands of pastors and leaders who, in my opinion, need to finally be held accountable.
My last words are reserved for any victim who might still be living in this bizarre, crazy and painful world created by the once mighty PDI/SGM empire: someday, you will no longer be a victim. Someday, you will be completely free. Someday, you will be truly joyful and your passion for the Lord will return. And someday you will embrace the full gospel…that Jesus died on the cross for your sins…AND HE RESURRECTED so that you might live the abundant John 10:10 free and healed life and experience the power of that glorious resurrection within you so that you no longer fear any man but can truly have joy pulsating within every fiber of your being! Yes…you can really be that happy and free!
But first, you must speak the truth about your current captivity…ask for help in all the right and safe places (this blog is one of them)…trust the real God (not the man-made one that PDI/SGM has erected)…and follow Him OUT of there! I urge you…I implore you…come out and join the rest of us…it’s going to feel so good to breathe again!


This mentality explains why so many cases of sexual abuse and domestic abuse went unreported.  And this is not just the mindset at one SGM church, but in quite a few.  I have no doubt that more stories will come out as people hear about the lawsuit and make the connection with stories they have heard or have experienced themselves.  I hope that they will reach out and seek support and also notify authorities if they have suffered crimes.  

photo credit: Hibr via photopin cc