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.)
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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.  


  1. The authorities are not always brought in, because the goal is to preserve the marriage. If the police come and the spouse winds up in jail, it is a defacto divorce. Children need their dad more than dad needs to be punished. I have even read that a woman calling 911 means that the husband cannot lead, because he will always fear being turned in by his wife.

    If you ever want to get mad, start reading the history of outlawing marital rape in this country. The main argument in keeping it legal was that more men will be falsely accused than honestly accused. The moral majority and others argued that of course sexual abuse is wrong, but it should be dealt with within a church. Some of this has even made it into the 2012 election cycle.

    1. Moses -
      That's sad. Children need a healthy dad and healthy marriage. They should not have to witness abuse in their homes and also abandonment by church leaders who avoid helping families in crises in real and practical ways.

      In some of these church environments, government is looked upon as evil. The fear is the perpetrator would be forced into evil secular counseling - what they need is good Biblical counseling.

      I would be glad to know that the goal is to preserve the marriage, but I just don't see that happening as much as it should. It takes real involvement to save a marriage - not just a counseling appt here an there. With domestic violence, we're often dealing with a rage-aholic. It needs to be dealt with before it results in physical violence. When it gets to the physical violence, it's the time to get outside help before someone gets very hurt or killed.

  2. In my experience the state does attempt to support the marriage and the family. That's not to say it does so perfectly, but it should be clear the church isn't doing very well, so we should at least be open to better answers. The state has the advantage of a big stick.

    I think it's important to point out something very obvious: we don't live in the first century. If my boss wants to beat me, I'm not going to submit. I have rights that first century slaves didn't have. Women have rights that first century women didn't have. These rights flow from the teaching of Scripture. I wonder if Piper would submit to being smacked by his session one night.

    1. ^^^^ Great response, Pastor Craig - - - a pastor who gets it! You nailed it - - - name me one pastor who would submit themselves to that kind of abuse!

  3. This is troubling, and I wonder if Pastor Piper would affirm these statements today, if he were given a chance to respond and clarify. There is a difference between taking a (possibly speculative) call or an email in the production of a video program, and actually sitting across the desk from a woman with a black eye and a split lip!
    Having been a part of such a ministry while working as a paramedic, where I routinely dealt with victims of physical and sexual abuse/violence, I lived a type of schizophrenic life: At work (and this is years ago, when I was a paramedic), my job was to do the right thing: care for these victims, insure that the civil authorities were brought into the crisis, immediately (!), and provide proper, legally accurate reporting on what I'd found, what I did, etc. As a paramedic, of course, I was required by law to report suspected abuse. But I refused to apply that law to my church. In the abusive church system that I was in, such issues were handled "by the church leadership" and "the authorities" were never notified. Looking back, and now being in ministry myself, I am aghast and ashamed that I was ever a part of a religious system whose leaders actually made such asinine claims of competency in dealing with such complex, oftentimes criminal-in-nature, problems. Victims were NEVER cared for, affirmed, assisted and loved. They lived under the cloud of somehow being guilty, if simply for bringing such "troubles" as abuse/misconduct/etc., into the affairs of the church, and forcing the church's leaders to respond. It is also clear to me (now) that a big reason for building such distrust for authorities and police was in order to remove the threat of civil intervention and the discovery of other, past abuses that had been mishandled and covered-over. And even if criminal court is not a great fear for the leaders of such ministries, the fear of a highly publicized civil case looms like a dark cloud over the administration of their churches.
    Having finally become victims of the whole abusive system ourselves, we fled from that church, and would run screaming out the door of any church we found ourselves in that espoused such misguided, abusive, incompetent an approach to dealing with abuse and violence issues among the membership. To tell the truth, "What is your policy when you become aware of physical/sexual abuse in the members of your church" would be a great interview question to ask the pastor of a church you're considering joining. My policy now is crystal clear, personally and as a pastor: When violence/abuse is reported to me, I call the police and report it. I've done it, and have seen one member taken in handcuffs, and I thank God for a clear conscience, and that member thanks God today that the state stepped in and used its power to put an end to the abuse. When in doubt, do what we raise our children to do: call the police for help! Great discussion! Pastor Ken

    1. Hey Ken - loved your post! That must have been mind-boggling going from the EMT job where you did report abusive situations then back to the abusive church where you remained silent. You were like a yo-yo! The part you mentioned about a victim feeling guilty - - - that issue has been brought up on SGMSurvivors blog and I plan on discussing it. That mentality also has to do with why they demanded a 3-yr old attend a meeting to forgive the sex offender. (The little 3-yr old crawled under the table to hide - - can you imagine?!!!!.) I think this is part of their belief system that justifies not calling authorities and I want to expose that nonsense.

      There is a sense of safety and security knowing that a pastor would immediately call police in the event of discovering abuse/violence. I keep going back to my former church situation - the sex offender did horrible sex crimes against children. Is there any sin that would warrant a call to the police? If rape didn't do it, would murder? @@ (those are my eyes rolling) I just can't make up this kind of crazy.

  4. "If there's not adultery going on, JUST abusive, cruelty, something like that..."

    "If it's not requiring her to sin but SIMPLY hurting her..."

    In so few words, so much is said. These words alone should cause all of us to ask ourselves what is wrong with this picture.

    Like JA said, if the church waits to do anything until it becomes physical, it is often too late. And these well known men and many like them are preaching even AFTER it becomes violent to stay. Really?!

  5. Craig I was thinking the same thing when I listened to Piper. Try to imagine what would happen if during an alter call you walked up to Piper and said "I disagree with the sermon you just preached on tithing" then smacked him in the face. There is a good chance in todays church environment, you might be carried out in a body bag, at the least in cuffs.

  6. I remember when I first saw this video it made me sick to my stomach. He has such a warped and sick sense of relationships. Which makes me think that he has a warped view of God.

    1. You know - - - I agree with you there. I highly doubt God would think that it's okay for a wife to submit to physical violence.

  7. Hey Julie Anne and readers,

    My name is also Julie Anne :) I found this blog through SGMsurvivors - I'm one of those as well and have been reading here for a while but have never commented before. I feel so sad for the many victims I've read about on this blog and others. I'm also so sad that so many have been beaten down and condemned by the church! God's called us to love others not judge others! Please know that there are many out there praying for you!

    1. Welcome, Julie Anne (with an "E", too!!!) It sounds like we have have more than our name in common. So sorry to hear that you, too, have been through abuse in church. Thank you for your encouraging words and prayers.

    2. If a man attacks his wife in a brutal enough fashion that the police need to be called, I think there is a good chance that he is not truly a gospel-understanding, Bible believing Christian and would not therefore come under the church's authority. I believe Piper is talking about cases that would not
      fall into this category. He is assuming the husband is a member in good standing of the church who is interested in dealing with his sins..not someone who is living a debauched life while claiming to be
      a Christian. He is someone who lost it momentarily, is truly repentant, and will never let it happen again, by the grace of God. Piper is not talking about a serial abuser.

      The term "abuse" is a relative term. My husband may not have liked the pot roast I cooked for dinner, been grumpy about it, and I could call that "abusive".

    3. Thanks for the comment, Anon - I don't think Piper is qualifying whether the husband is Christian or not and I'm not sure it matters because his basic teaching is the wife is supposed to be submissive to the husband whether Christian or not.

      I also am not sure I agree wit you about the husband being not being a serial abuser. Using the word "endures" seems to imply the abuse has happened before and he tells her "endures perhaps being smacked one night" - and encourages her to go to the church for help - - - no mention of calling authorities. Being smacked is a crime. I know of a domestic violence situation in which the very first phone call to the police, the husband was put in jail, had to take anger management classes, etc. This is serious stuff, yet Piper wants the church to handle it and notice where the responsibility lies: on the woman who must endure one more time being smacked. Maybe this one more time causes her death??? This is the wrong focus. Why does Piper seem to protect the husband more than the wife? Why does she bear the responsibility of his crime? This is not love shown by Piper.

    4. It absolutely does matter if the man is a Christian or not. Look what Piper says:

      "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. "

      He says "let the people in the church deal with him". Someone who is not a Christian has no obligation to come under church discipline. For THAT husband who is harming his wife, there is no solution other than to call the civil authorities. For a Christian, however, let us remember that the ONE who is being offended here, even more than the wife, is Almighty God. It is a pastor's job to help people deal with their sins biblically. This is not so much about wives submitting to their husbands...this is about Christians submitting to God.

      I see no basis from this video clip to claim that Piper is saying let the church handle any and all cases of spousal abuse....I challenge you to correspond with him and ask him to clarify his statements.

    5. Ok, I do see your point. But I know from his teachings he comes from the point of view that a wife must submit to her husband, Christian or not. Even if he is referring to a Christian husband, he is still suggesting she endure another smacking. How can that comment be justified whether or not the husband is Christian?

      How should a pastor help people deal with their sins biblically? Are you suggesting that his comment that she endure another smacking is a proper way for a pastor to counsel a woman who is enduring physical violence? It seems real Biblical counsel would be this: Rom 13:1 Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.

      The abusive husband should be turned over to authorities - the authorities that God has established. Any pastor who keeps abuse "in-house" without notifying civil authority seems to be assuming and usurping the authority God has put in place.

    6. The husband, if Christian, is the one who needs help in dealing with his sins biblically. He needs to repent, and put in place a group to keep him accountable. And, in my opinion, part of that accountability would be this: "If physical harm ever happens again to your wife by your hand,beyond that ONE time that you lost your mind and struck her, then we will be calling the police".

      If the Holy Spirit of God is truly at work in this man, meaning he really is a Christian, then this would be following Scriptural Authority and would, God willing, lead to him being convicted in his soul of his sin and turning from it. Again, this won't happen unless he is a Christian.

    7. Ok, that sounds reasonable to me - - - as long as there is true accountability, not just talk.

      But again, that doesn't address Piper's statement of enduring abuse one more time and THEN seeking help from church. Do you think that comment was appropriate or even Biblical?

    8. He did not say she endures abuse one MORE time, he says :

      "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."

      ONE then bring church discipline down on him. He is not saying, one more time, he is saying ONE time.

    9. Wait a minute - - - (I wish I could edit my comments on Blogger!) - - - - what about the crime the husband already committed? Should that not be reported to authorities FIRST in addition to getting actively involved in the family crisis and providing accountability? Perhaps the pastor should escort the husband to the police station to give a confession of the violence he inflicted on his wife.

    10. Do you think many wives who have a husband that uncharacteristically lost his temper and hit them ONE time would want to call the police if it never happened again? I know that I would not. I'm not talking about a beating Julie Anne...I'm talking about raising your hand in anger ONE time and then
      being so shocked that you did it, that you repented and it NEVER happened again.

    11. @Anonymous - I would argue that 'raising one's hand in anger' and 'striking a woman' are two VERY different things.

      Any man cowardly enough to strike a woman should be in jail/prison. If he struck a perfect stranger on the street he would be in jail for assault.

      Now, maybe after they cool off in a cell the spouse decides not to press charges, then you might have a point.

      But I think getting their can in jail is a step in the right direction.

    12. Anon: To me, the key would be the man's heart. I personally might be able to overlook one time . . . . . if, I saw true heart-felt remorse and repentance. If the husband is denying, evasive, etc, then that is a huge red flag to me.

      But just as Steve said - - - if this happened to a stranger, he likely would be arrested. Why do we tolerate abuse of a wife, but not a stranger?

      I know of a domestic violence case that probably saved a marriage. The husband was put in jail for a few days and had to take anger management classes. What's wrong with that?

    13. Dear Anonymous,

      Dealing with sin biblically includes making amends -- to all those who've been injured. A Christian man (any man, for that matter) who strikes his wife, even in momentary anger, has indeed sinned against God (as you wrote above). However, his sin is not only against God, or only against God and his own wife. He has also sinned against society, by breaking the laws of the land. He's committed assault. That's a crime. He has a debt to pay to society. If he really is intent on dealing with his sin (and crime), he ought to be willing to turn himself in and own up.

    14. Exactly, Serving! Reader Terriergal posted this comment on another thread and it really applies well here:

      I've noticed a trend among some of my friends though (who are not church leaders), that they don't look kindly on anyone who is trying to bring some clever surreptitious troublemaker or abuser to justice. They also seem to REALLY have a problem with bringing the law to bear on people who are in blatant sin even if they are the one who was abused. My theory: they think that acting against this kind of behavior means they are taking revenge or being unforgiving. They don't think about the next victim. It's sad, it's not always the leaders who do this. But they were taught this by the leaders. Forgiveness is good, but sometimes the most LOVING and (ironically) FORGIVING thing you can do for the perpetrator is (not in anger or bitterness, though you certainly will have those emotions because we aren't perfect) bring the law to bear on them, so that they might see their sin and repent!

    15. If Piper truly cared about people's marriages, then he would not be offering advice such as this. He should be encouraging husbands and wives to be loving and respectful to each other.

      The fact that he says that it's ok for a husband to verbally or physically abuse his wife at least once is frightening. It opens the doors to an abuser. All they seek is that one chance to push a little further to see how far they can go. If he gets caught that one time, all he has to do is "repent" and confess. He'll treat his wife well for a while then he'll see how far he can go again. It's a vicious cycle for the victim, and Piper's church would definitely not be helping to stop that cycle.

    16. Kathi said, **The fact that he says that it's ok for a husband to verbally or physically abuse his wife at least once is frightening.**

      Wonder if, in Mr. Piper's world, we're all allowed a one-time pass to murder, as long as it doesn't *REALLY* hurt anybody and we repent afterwards and never do it again. Maybe leaving the door open for sin is what really leads to repentance anyway, eh?

      The logic here is not only absurd, but I dare say incoherently so - - even if it uses "biblical" phraseology to hide the insanity of it all. But then, true coherence is not necessarily a function of intellectual capacity, but of spiritual comprehensivity and keeping things in balance, not splitting them into double-mindedness. If we are supposed to be both subject to civil authorities, as commanded in the New Testament, yet supposedly the leaders have free reign to keep *criminally sinful actions* "in-house," is that not contradictory? Where does the "right" come from both to obey God on being part of society (when you want to) YET break the law (when you want to)? And if there is an anti-logical dualism on this point ... how many other doctrines are amiss that directly affect the lives of the sheep?

    17. Where's my like button, Brad?! ^^^^^^YES!!!^^^^^

  8. Not letting Piper off the hook for this malignant persuasion but there are all too many other clergy in all too many places who feel that this is just business as usual when it comes to how to handle 'the little woman' at home--by clergy pronouncements regarding marital matters. Malignant persuasions that are harmful in the Body of Christ are being recognized and no longer tolerated.

    This is extremely widespread and needs to be exposed.

    1. Doing my best, Barb . . . . one blog at a time :)

    2. While I pray this is not widespread, it is worth a note:

      It is NEVER in a church's financial interests for you to divorce. Half tithe, or no tithe, will occur.

    3. Hmm - - - never thought of that, but you are probably right. Divorce certainly does affect the pocketbook, thus the tithing.

  9. It was nice to see the nervous laugh when asked about abuse. It is good to know that it is still a laughing matter for prophets of God. /sarcasm off

    1. And might I add: Women, please do not 'wait for your smack'. Get him (and thereby the whole family) help before it comes to that.

      Take it from an ex-husband who was abused by his wife, for 3 years, whom then divorced me as a thank you for sticking around. It is not worth it. Blessings.

  10. "...smacked one night..." is a deliberate, though probably automatic, choice of words, designed to make the violence seem more like a cartoon-type violence, or something someone might say about pro-wrestling, etc. Kids "smack" each other in schoolyards, people who are plays-boxing "smack" each other in jest. Pro-wrestlers put the "smack-down" on each other. It's certainly not the way a police officer would describe the same event in his/her report. 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 responsive to DO THE RIGHT THING, especially when people are being hurt. In this context and time of history, that means we appeal to the governmental authorities whom we pay to keep peace, and enforce our laws. I know of people who have left their churches simply because they lost confidence in the leadership's commitment to provide a physically safe community in which to worship and live... Preachin', sorry.

    1. why would a loving God bring a hurting person into a church community in which there is a "one smack rule"?

      I can't believe this, I'm actually getting teared up after reading this good preachin'. To have real abuse validated, not minimized, not justified, not excused - - - wow - - maybe because I've been reading so many stories of abuse in church where victims are completely ignored.

      And I think you are right - - - people will abandon churches if they do not feel safe. This is another example of how a wife can be victimized twice: first by the abusive husband, secondly by her pastor who does not take appropriate action and abandons her spiritually, emotionally, and perhaps physically.

      Thank you, Ken.

  11. Thanks for the welcome! Thankfully when I say I am an SGMsurvivor I was never abused nor were my children - however being in a spiritually abusive church and "family of churches" for nearly 10 years has taken a toll on me and my family. By God's grace He pulled us out of that place a couple of years ago and we were able to find a church that truly displays Christ's love! I have learned so much about grace and mercy in that time and feel so sad for those still stuck in abusive churches. It breaks my heart too to read about women (and men) who are abused and told that its a sin to leave their abusive spouse and that they must stay in that kind of environment - while the spouse's horrible sin of abuse is glossed over! Thank you, Julie Anne for using a difficult time in your own life to continue to minister healing to others - you could have stopped blogging at the conclusion of the law suit but instead you have expanded the blog to help the victims of spiritual abuse from many other places. I pray that many who read here and don't necessarily post find the courage to leave if they are in an abusive situation - and for those who read here and judge others I pray that God would open their eyes so that they may see Him for who He truly is - a loving, merciful God who has called us to love Him and love others!

    1. Welcome Another Julie Anne! Thank you for sharing your heart with those who hang out here. Your understanding about the toll that a spiritually abusive church can have is backed up by your personal experience. God's grace has become richer and deeper for you and your family, as you have declared.

      Yes, one of the key issues regarding any kind of abuse is recognizing the patterns of abuse and then taking action! As more and more people recognize wrongheaded teachings, deceptive behaviors, and harmful outcomes then there is a corporate voice that raises awareness about these 'glossed over' issues that others can learn to recognize. Thanks for being part of the team.

    2. Another Julie Anne: Thank you for your kind words. Your prayer is my prayer, too.

  12. Preach it, Downtown Pastor!

    Anon, your suggestion of giving a pass after one smack is ludicrous. I pray you never have to actually be confronted with that hypothetical situation to see what you would actually do. I also pray that if a friend ever comes to you in crisis after being hit even once, or even after being threatened violence, that your heart will break for the injustice and that you will advocate for the victim. It is possible to remain hopeful of the abuser changing, to believe in forgiveness, while also advocating for safety and justice. Actually, that is exactly what Jesus did for us on the cross!

    1. Amen, RP!! Great last line - and so obvious and beautifully stated.

  13. Julie Anne - thank you for trying to bring common sense to this matter. I'm absolutely stunned that this is even a debate. Just last night, I talked for two hours with a fellow congregation member at Covenant Life in Gaithersburg. He kept arguing with me that Biblically, this is how God tells us to handle these situations, in-house. The obvious counter-argument I had to this was if we deal with these situations in-house, and the abuser is simply told to repent, what's to keep him from doing it again? I see the point of putting in a rule of "one more time" and we're calling the police, but I would argue this - what if that one more time leads to serious injury or death? And I don't mean just with a husband abusing a wife (although when a wife is killed, often it is at the hands of an abusive husband). I speak also in the case of a rapist. If a man rapes a child and the church says repent and don't do this again or we'll call the police, what if he doesn't get counseling and rapes again? How would you feel if your child was the 2nd rape victim? Again - I'm absolutely FLOORED this could even be a debate. Thank you for defending the side of reason.

    1. Greg - You are so right - this stuff really should be common sense and it is appalling that something so obvious is even an issue of debate. I really appreciate your comment because it sheds light into the thought processes that allowed these abuses to go on unchecked by outside authorities. This is the pattern that I have observed not only at SGM, but my former church, Calvary Chapel, and so many other churches. They make the issue of a crime into solely an issue of sin, completely disregarding that the actions are criminal offenses.

      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.

      This is typical of SGM - they are preoccupied with everything being "biblical", "gospel", that they even miss obvious Bible verses dealing with government authority.

      Did the person you were speaking with give you specific Bible verses to back up his argument? If you get the chance again, here are a couple questions I would like to get answered:

      Who gave the church the right to conceal crimes from the governing authorities? This is unbiblical.
      What about restitution for crimes? Where does that come into play?
      At what point does sin become crime and the church would encourage getting outside help?

    2. Julie Anne - I'll try to answer your questions here as best I can so be patient with me as I ramble. The specific Bible verse I was given was in 1st Corinthians Chapter 6 verse 1 "Dare any of you, having a matter against another, go to law before the unjust, and not before the saints" (King James Version). This verse, in my opinion, can be dangeriously misconstrued, and this well could be the go-to verse for these churches to instill in their doctrine. Do the pastor see the police as the "unjust?" I continued with my debate by asking "if a congregation member murdered another, in self-defense or otherwise, would you want to keep that in-house? Or would you call the police in that case?" I got the friend told me that "obviously this situation is weighing on my heart and I should talk to a pastor." Shouldn't situations like child abuse cover-up weigh on everyone's heart? Why would this situation be unique only to me? I found that response quite strange, and I've heard it from others, saying things like obviously this matter is important to you (is it important to them)? Anyways, this addresses the mentality of many church members if not the church itself - possibly no sin would would require outside help (one of your other questions).

      In fairness, our head pastor has now said that authorities should be involved in these cases, but he also stated in a television interview that the church has never held a position otherwise - never. This is up for debate, as evidenced by the lawsuit - which claims SGM is still, to this day, risking kids well-being (point 24 in the lawsuit). In the orientations for children's ministry at CLC, they are now saying to report children to the authorities if child abuse is suspected. But is this in response to what has taken place? And if the abuse happens and they are made of aware of it, will they truly go to the police? My trust in them is shaky - do they genuinely have a mistrust of secular authority, or have they finally put this aside? I am hopeful that they have. So in the past, there appeared to be no need for restitution for crimes - you were not to sue a brother, or turn a brother in (if the lawsuit is true). Now? Honestly that's unclear.

      The church cannot conceal crime from authorities - it's unbiblical and against Maryland law. However - you cannot be criminally prosecuted for concealing sex abuse, even though it's illegal. Trust me, I don't understand the law either. Check out the following link:

      Anyways, I hope I have answered your questions? Do you have any other questions? Interestingly enough, there will be a members meeting on November 4. I plan on attending to see if they address this situation. I'll ask you and everyone else on this board this question - do you think it's strange that these charges would come out on October 17, and we'd remain silent on the issue until November 4? What kind of message does that send? Any thoughts?

    3. I'm headed out to an important high school volleyball play-off game (in which my kid is playing), but wanted to say that REMAINING SILENT is clearly sending a very loud message. It is highlighting the dysfunction in the church.

      I'll address the rest after the game. Thanks, Greg, for your informative response.

    4. Ok, back from the game and back to the issue: so you asked the legitimate question and were referred to a pastor, but they gave you verses like 1 Cor 6? hmm - - that figures. The 1 Corinthians verse is definitely one that can be used to a pastor's advantage in discouraging members from seeking help from civil authorities. No wonder this is weighing heavily on your heart. It's messed up.

      The mandatory reporting issue that you brought up is something that I discussed earlier on the blog. It really is an important issue if we are going to be protecting victims with actions and not just mere talk. If my former pastor had been living in Oklahoma, he could have been arrested for not reporting. I don't understand why pastors get this exemption. Not reporting offenders puts children at risk. It makes no sense to me.

      It baffles me that pastors get to decide that criminals need no restitution for crimes, too. So many times they get off with an apology - - really?? That's it? Think of the years and years of emotional turmoil a victim of sexual crime goes through.

      Thanks for answering my questions, Greg. I hope that the lawsuit produces something positive. I think it will - if not for SGM, then for others who may have been careless in how they protect children. I remember during the Penn State scandal, the local news investigated the universities in our area to ask them about their policies. It is good to get this out in the open. Unfortunately, it has taken the pain of victims and their families to bring this out in the open. That's not right.

    5. I hope your kid won the playoff game! I makes no sense not to report child abuse. This should be a felony in all 50 states....the Penn State story should change that - let's hope. Can't we have some common sense?

      That was always the issue at SGM - the pastors just told them to apologize - if the victim spoke out, they were bigger sinners for not accepting the repentance. So you can see how this would happen for years and years and years. Manipulation, fear, guilt, and the cycle repeats to the next generation.

      So if I'm not mistaken, you were sued for speaking your mind on your church?

      You're welcome and it's nice speaking with you...I hope the lawsuit makes it to court and justice is served. If it doesn't make it, this will convince SGM to say "see, we told you so" and then things won't change. The passage of time could be a problem, but fortunately in a civil case you're dealing with "a preponderance of the evidence" rather than convicting beyond a reasonable doubt, and I think you only need a 10 to 2 verdict rather than 12 to 0 to win...we'll see how all of it plays out. Thank you for the well wishes.


    6. Yes, she did - district champs - now off to regionals next weekend. thanks :)

      Yes, that confess sins, apologize, reconciliation thing seems so cheap when you look at the life of a victim and what they endure. They want to hurry up and get it resolved for "Christ's" sake and then you have to question is it really resolved? It's like going through the motions, I think, in many cases - Biblical formulas without a real genuine response of the heart about the anguish and emotional pain. For some abuse victims, it takes years before they can recover and yet they are forced to meet and resolve the issue on the pastor's timing. Ick.

      Yes, you are correct. I wrote a negative Google review which was not well received by the pastor and church members. The review was eventually removed and I put up a new review, adding more to it as I learned more from the SGMSurvivors site (I was reading that site for years before getting sued)- it was back and forth like that for a few years. Finally after Google blocked me from leaving a review, I started this blog. As soon as I started my blog, he edited his Google review to notify me that I was going to be sued. The blog began Feb 24 and I got my subpoena March 1, 2012. We won the court case July 26, 2012. The pastor has to pay all of our attorney fees. He's already paid close to $17K and the judge just recently awarded the full amount my attorney requested (around $35K), so my attorney is now waiting for payment. And . . I still get to blog :) I never stopped. Interestingly, the Google review soap opera has continued even this last week.

      I sure hope that justice is served in the SGM case. As you can see on the blog, I have now ventured into abuse in churches in general and will continue to draw attention to cases like SGM as well as discuss other issues related church abuse. It's a sad topic that I had no idea was so common until my court case and reading the many stories people posted here or sent to me.

      It's been great connecting with you, Greg!

    7. Glad you won the game!

      Agreed...sexual abuse victims need closure - apologies, heartfelt, and some clear restitution. Not only that, but these victims need true, professional couseling. Without that, they don't stand a real chance.

      Wow, so glad you won the lawsuit! That would have been incredibly unfair. You have the right to freedom of speech in that case.

      Keep fighting the good fight and thanks for your blogs! Great connecting with you too Julie Anne. :)


    8. The professional counseling issue is a huge one, too, because so many churches are anti-counseling. They think it must remain in church. We see the fruit of that kind of teaching in abusive churches, don't we? That is one more internal battle that many face - they have to get over their abusive pastor's words that all counselors our outside help is evil.

      Thanks for your kind words, Greg.

    9. Exactly and that appears to be a huge issue in this case - pride. No secular counseling - we know best because we're equipped with the word of God. Yes we do see the end results of this kind of teaching throughout the Catholic church, etc.

      Thank you for the kind words as well Julie Anne.


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