Monday, October 1, 2012

Readers Respond to Anyabwile Article

Sometimes I post quotes from people who may not line up with my beliefs and last post was such a case.  In the article, A Sign of Hope Among Mayhem of Church Abuse,  I was excited about what I was seeing by a pastor associated with the Gospel Coalition, Thabiti Anyabwile.   I am uncomfortable with some of what I see from the Gospel Coalition (and some of you may have picked up on that in my response to Steve in the comment section); however, I posted it because the article contained good and helpful information about the subject of abuse in church.    Abuse is one of the primary focus points of this blog and discussing ways to prevent and handle abusive situations in churches, so this article certainly fit in with that topic.  

I have used John MacArthur's quotes on the blog because I know a lot of readers connect with his teachings.   I appreciate some of his teachings, too;  however, I don't buy everything he says/teaches and also have had some negative experiences with key pastors there.

There was another post in which I quoted Alexander Strauch.  The quote was good; however, a reader, A. Amos Love,  also informed me of other ideas Alexander stands for.  I appreciated his comments:

I love it when people challenge me.  If I see something that rings true to me, I may post it.   People may not agree with me.  That is okay.   Keep in mind that I'm trying to keep the main focus as the main focus.

Here's where I'm coming from:   in abusive churches, we were not allowed to question.  Information was preached to us.  The pastors thought they owned us and what was taught to us.   Sometimes we can fall into the trap of rigid black and white thinking.   I used to be there.  I didn't like the person that I became when using that kind of black/white thinking.  Getting too tied into the all-or-nothing mindset, I failed some people relationally.  I still think it's okay to say that I don't care for the group that Thabiti Anyabwile associates with, but his words on this particular subject ring true for me.  So, please know, if I do use a quote from someone you may have issues with, see if the quote without the name attached lines up for you.  

But if you see something that I have posted that is not sitting right with you, please feel free to question it.  And feel free to do it publicly in the comments section.  I am not afraid of conflict or good debate.  It's good to wrestle with ideas.   Part of my spiritual abuse detoxing has been wrestling with the ideas that have been taught to me by my abuser.  This is a safe place to do so.  

That said, here is what a reader sent regarding Saturday's post and I would like to open it the subject for comment.  I appreciated this e-mail:

Reading the whole article by Thabiti Anyabwile did not give me a lot of hope for 2 reasons - 
#1 - This was about sexual sin - something most Christians would agree on. If a pastor sins in this way, the only question is whether they should be restored through some type of process of counseling. (But, many of the people on the Wikipedia list (Ted Haggard, Paul Cain, Lonnie Frisbee) had large enough egos that they felt they did not need to submit to any restoration process and "dropped out" or resisted it.)
#2 - The "solution" presented here is one that Leaders need to discuss, propose. Most Reformed churches don't have congregational input.  
"Does your staff, leadership team, elders and congregation have a set of practices and policies that help guard against the moral failure of leaders and to address it when it happened?  After reading sifted through a fair number of recent articles and scandals, I’m freshly convinced I need to lead First Baptist’s leaders through discussions and proposals on this issue." 

Also, we know that Pastors can be abusive even if they do not fall into immorality. 

JA's thoughts:  I hadn't made the connection that the abuse Anyabwile was referring to applied solely to pastors with sexual sin.  The comments seemed to be mixed with some discussing sex abuse, but others discussing spiritual abuse as well.  I really appreciated this reader pointing that out.  After rereading the article, I do believe the article was primarily written with the focus on sexual abuse by pastors.  However, the title of the article refers to "pastoral failures".  When I am thinking abuse, I'm thinking all abuse:  abuse in the church by members, abuse by pastors (sexual, spiritual, etc).   Aren't those types of abuse considered to be pastoral failures?   Any thoughts?

And here's part of an e-mail another reader sent me:

While I think Thabiti Anyabwile's insights are spot on and are helpful for the general Christian world to hear and consider, unfortunately the Gospel Coalition caters to an large audience of a certain brand of Christianity that on the one hand, holds the doctrine of sin highly and has seen very little (at least that has not been exposed) overt scandals. However, these are the same circles who perpetuate some very hard core views on secondary issues like complentarianism, homeschooling, etc so highly that when they use the term "gospel" with "coalition", they mean much more than simply a united view on the centrality of Jesus's life death and resurrection. They mean, we are the ones who really have these cultural things figured out and our version of living out the "gospel" is the most accurate.
Mr. Anyabwile seemingly has good intentions,  however, the circles of folks he interacts with hold to some subtle and not so subtle views and practices that reveal that they don't "get it". His words are true and helpful (perhaps he does see the problem more than some). But this admonition of his that you posted is not specific enough to be taken seriously. The leaders involved with the Gospel Coalition and the movement associated with it can see the issues in blantant sex scandals, but are blind to their own sexist and unhealthy practices in their own congregations. Again, I know you get it, hence your post! I'm so thankful for people like you speaking out and confronting these issues.
I don't know what a healthy view of women in a church would look like exactly, but I know my gut is telling me that there is something very very off wrong about these hard core reformed pastors who preach more about men and women's roles than they do about loving the world. I hope that Mr. Anyabwile's words illuminate the harder to see areas of abuse in the lives of the very people he is in close circles with. I hope that churches will stop fearing liberal theologoy taking over the church to the point that they fail to protect women. I hope they return to the simplicity of the gospel and allow it to correct church practices and that churches become a place of refuge rather than a place that harbors sexism and abuse. I saw this more generally as I left my old church, but now with the situation at hand in my life, it is so much more clear.
Thank you for your boldnesses in confronting abuse. It has helped empower me to stay strong in this situation. 

These words struck me the most:   but I know my gut is telling me that there is something very very off wrong about these hard core reformed pastors who preach more about men and women's roles than they do about loving the world. 

Here we go again -  some pastors are more committed to secondary issues in the church and miss the primary focus - loving and guiding their people.  I continue to receive stories about situations like this in my inbox.  This blog will continue to address these issues.  Sometimes it's difficult to understand until connecting with someone's personal story - if you'd like to share yours on the blog, please contact me.

Because they hated knowledge
and did not choose the fear of the LORD,
would have none of my counsel
and despised all my reproof,
therefore they shall eat the fruit of their way,
and have their fill of their own devices.
For the simple are killed by their turning away,
and the complacency of fools destroys them;
but whoever listens to me will dwell secure
and will be at ease, without dread of disaster.”
(Proverbs 1:29-33 ESV)


  1. I observe that some of us focus on abuse dynamics while others focus on structures that facilitate or even cause abuse. This creates clashes. Hopefully these clashes are constructive. We need each other. We fight abuse most effectively, I think, when we follow more than one approach.

    1. It's been my conclusion that spiritual abuse is a multi-sourced monster. At some level, there must be individual people who perpetrate abuse, and who condition others to support the abuser either actively ("henchmen") or more passively ("excusers"). That's the human systems side. But even if the perpetrators end up out of the picture, there are often organizational and theological things left in place ... "residuals" of the abusers ... and even those can keep the trajectory geared toward trauma. (For instance, legalistic "covenants" for membership might remain in place for decades and still be an indicator of a hostile, unhealthy, unsafe environment for spiritual growth.) And there are also situations where the host culture itself can encourage/amplify abuse. These are the larger, macro-movements and theological networks and denominations within the Church - and various trends in society. For instance, consider how the presence of a post-Christian culture tends to bring a shrill reaction from Christians who believe it is our right and responsibility to make culture moral by imposing "biblical" standards. Anyway, if we look at systems approaches to abuse, it offers us a big-picture way to see how all the players - individuals, organizations, movements, culture, theologies, paradigms - come into play. We do need to see all the parts. Trying to work at just one level may remove one or more players, but the seeds of abuse have already been planted and sprung up elsewhere ...

    2. I think we first must acknowledge that there IS abuse. It's amazing that people don't get it. Even seasoned Christians seem to be missing or avoiding key portions of scripture that discuss abuse by wolves in the church. Frankly, I don't understand the disconnect.

    3. JA writes: "These words struck me the most: but I know my gut is telling me that there is something very very off wrong about these hard core reformed pastors who preach more about men and women's roles than they do about loving the world."

      My gut feeling is that this statement does not represent the reality of the Gospel Coaliation churches and pastors who have faithfully committed themselves “to reforming [their] ministry practices to conform fully to Scriptures.”

      In teaching the full counsel of God not only do these pastors and teachers speak or write about how we are to love God and relate to the world, but they also must necessarily address the issue of gender roles within the family of God, within the home and the church.

      Although I don’t know Thabiti Anyabwile, I do know other council members like Tim Keller and D.A. Carson, solid teachers who have faithfully invested (in proportion to all their teachings) a small sliver of there time to lay out and teach a Biblical Complementarianism that is faithful to the Word of God. These men are standing at the front lines of a battle within the church for the purity and health of the church. These words struck me as a broad-brushed and grossly distorted caricature of some good and faithful ministers.

      Although some within that camp are indeed suspect (like the SGM boys, for instance, and that ignorant punk Chandler), but surely not all the members of TGC is worthy of such "hard core" censure.

    4. David: I am getting more and more disturbing e-mails from people from the man-is-the-authority camp. I have good friends who do the complementarian thing just fine. They like it, it works for them beautifully and they have a beautiful marriage. However, when a man takes upon an authoritarian position and abuses it, the church as a whole can even perpetuate further abuse by counseling the wife to submit to her husband without first checking to see if in fact the man is abusing his "authority".

      I am finding this trend strongly present in New Calvinist churches: Piper, SGM, Family Integrated Churches, conservative homeschooling groups, Patriarchal, etc. I am very troubled by what I am seeing.

    5. David - Go take a look at the Gospel Coalition site and see the list of who is on it: Baucham, Dever, Duncan, Keller, Mahaney, Ortlund, Powlison, Piper, Mohler, DeYoung have been identified among the New Calvinist camp. Those names popped out at me because I am familiar with them. I'm unclear on the others, but even so, having one or two among the group would be one thing, this is not one or two. I had no idea that all of these guys were part of that group. I learned something new today.

      Ortlund and Mohler spoke out publicly, very quickly defending Mahaney after the Brent Detwiler documents were leaked to the public regarding abuses within the SGM churches. Now after the Ambassadors of Reconciliation have okayed Mahaney for ministry, Mahaney has moved his SGM headquarters to Louisville and his staff can attend Mohler's college, leaving all kinds of unfinished business behind in other SGM churches.

      This is what CJ wrote about his new church plant in Louisville (a city with all kinds of churches already established):

      "The origins of our interest in church planting in Louisville date back some six years as we began to consider how strategic this city might be for Sovereign Grace Ministries. For several years, I, along with others, searched for a man who could church plant in this city, but we were unable to successfully recruit someone for this task. About two years ago, I had the unexpected thought that possibly the fruitless search was due to the fact that the Lord might want me to do this."

      How noble of him to think that he was the one God was calling to start this church plant leaving unfinished business in his churches - - - story after story of abuse that was not dealt with properly. Go take a look at and read the stories of abuse that the people from Gospel Coalition call "slander".

      I am kind of regretting publishing this link and commentary from Anyabwile. The above readers were absolutely right. It's easy to look at abuse in church and say it's happening to "those sinful pastors" - the very public cases of Haggard, Hyles, Schaap - men in the pastorate who committed blatant sex sins or crimes. But Anyabwile failed to address the real abuses that are taking place in the churches of pastors connected with Gospel Coalition - - the spiritual abuse, not taking care of sex abuse cases in the church properly, not protecting victims of sex abuse in the church, the lording of husbands over their wives and teaching the wives to submit. That was a huge oversight. Now I'm wanting to say: Remove the log, Gospel Coalition!

    6. Julie Anne

      Sounds to me like your "CreepO Meter" is tuned into this “abomination” these
      "Pastors who Abuse.” These “Pastors addicted to Exerising Authority.”

      like to call

      "The Gospel Coalition"

      Luke 16:14-15
      And the Pharisees also, who were covetous,

      (Pharisees = Today’s Religious Leaders)
      (Covetous for - Power - Profit - prestige - Honor - Glory - Reputation - Recognition)

      heard all these things: and they (Pharisees) derided him.
      And he (Jesus) said unto them,

      Ye are they which justify yourselves before men;
      but God knoweth your hearts:
      for that which is highly esteemed among men (Power - Profit - Prestige... etc.)
      is abomination in the sight of God.

  2. Masculinist complementarianism is neither Christian nor biblical. It is based on a skewed exegesis of proof-texted scripture taken out of the biblical, ethical, and social context of the passage. One small example: Submission in Ephesians is first mutual. That means that the word translated as submission cannot mean what we mean by "submission" since that is definitely inconsistent with mutuality. Both of two cannot be submitted to the other in a hierarchical sense.

  3. I have a practical concern. If we insist on a particular theology with respect to gender, then we risk the result that the very people we want to listen to us simply tune us out. Spousal abuse is morally reprehensible. If we're not addressing it then shame on us. That clear call should not get tangled up in a theological debate.

  4. Julie Anne - Monax

    I vote - The Gospel Coalition - Is NOT about the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
    Their gospel is about controll, manipulation and “Exercising Authority.”
    And - promoting their books, confrences and Celebrity Preachers.
    And - promoting their brand of Calvinism.

    Aren’t we supposed to point people to Jesus.
    NOT to a “Mere fallible Human” like Calvin.
    Who was as brutal and controlling as Rome. But in a “Reformed” sort of way.

    I’ve challenged and debated quite a few at TGC over the last couple of years.
    Some before they were official TGC bloggers.

    Their stands on “Church Disipline” “Church Membership” “Church leaders”
    “Submission to Authority”“Obey your Leaders” “NOT allowing sheep to ask questions”
    are ALL found in “Spiritual Abuse 101.”

    And, A. Amos Love, and questions, have been “banned” from most of the blogs at TGC.

    I continue with different aliases - but those comments are also removed or banned.
    Hmmm? Wonder what they are afraid of. They do want to be “Biblical” - Yes?

    Seems when you disagree and challenge their Power - Profit - and - Prestige.
    And ask them questions they can NOT answer from the Bible.
    Your soul is NO longer important. But - they still want you to - Pay - Pray - Obey.

    Jer 50:6
    “My people” hath been “lost sheep:”
    *their shepherds* have caused them *to go astray,*

    1 Pet 2:25
    For ye were as *sheep going astray;*
    but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.

    I’m Blest - I’ve returned to the Shepherd and bishop of my soul...

    {{{{{{ Jesus }}}}}}

    1. A. Amos Love - - - what's with TGC banning you? Are they afraid of conflict? I'm not. You're welcome here as long as you don't sympathize with an abuser :) I know you won't do that!

  5. Monax

    I do NOT know Keller - he might be a nice guy - Might even be saved..
    But - I did have a conversation about him on a blog - and what he wrote - about...
    “Creation, Evolution, and Christian Laypeople” - Found here in PDF.

    What I noticed is - He has a very low reguard for “Lay people.” “We’re confused.”
    If Keller is a “solid teachers...” “... that is faithful to the Word of God.”
    Shouldn’t he know there is NO such thing as a “Clergy-Laity” divide - In the Bible.
    Didn’t Jesus say the divide is between “sheeps” and “goats.” Mat 25:33

    Here is one comment from that blog that points out in the PDF article above - where
    Keller is being condescending (superior) to us lowly “Laypeople.”



    I don’t have a problem with Keller. Never met him. He might be a nice guy.
    I have a problem with “The Institutional Religious System” he adheres to.
    This is just one example, (Clergy - Laity” Split), that doesn’t exist in the Bible.
    IMO - It’s another “Abusive,” “Tradition of Men,” Jesus warned us about.
    “making VOID “The Word of God” through your tradition.” Mk 7:13 RSV.

    There are many “Traditions of men” in “The Institutional Religious System,”
    NOT found in the Bible. Many lead to some form of “Spiritual Abuse.” :-(

    You ask... Am I wrong? Well... Maybe you, and others, can decide yourself. ;-)

    Here are the twelve times "laypeople" are used in the Keller article and
    IMO - Keller - is being condescending (superior) to the lowly “Laypeople.”
    Yep twelve - One more - I found “Layperson” also in the article. Thanks. ;-)

    I still haven't found "laypeople" once in the Bible. ;-) Have you?
    Jesus said, we’re all brethren. Mat 23:8. I like Jesus... A lot. ;-)

    “Laypeople” Found On Page...
    1 - “many Christian **laypeople remain CONFUSED**”
    1 - “What will it take **to HELP Christian laypeople**
    see greater coherence between what science tells us about creation
    and what the Bible teaches us about it?”

    2 - “I have been a pastor for almost 35 years, and during that time
    I’ve spoken **to many laypeople who STRUGGLE with**
    the relationship of modern science to orthodox belief.
    2 - “In **the minds of “MOST?” laypeople,** (How does he know “Most?”)
    it is the first three DIFFICULTIES that loom largest.
    2 - “ I will lay out three **BASIC PROBLEMS that Christian laypeople have**
    with the scientific account of biological evolution.”
    2 - “that instead they should **simply refer THEIR laypeople**
    to the works of scholars. (**THEIR laypeople???** AAARRRGGHHH!!! :-)
    2 - But if pastors are not ‘up to the job’ of distilling and understanding the
    writings of scholars in various disciplines, **how will OUR laypeople do it?**

    6 - “This creates **a PROBLEM for the Christian layperson** if they hear
    their teachers or preachers telling them that God could have used EBP
    to bring about life forms.
    6 - “Many **Christian laypeople RESIST all this** and seek to hold on to
    some sense of human dignity by subscribing to ‘fiat-creationism.’“
    6 - “**I have seen intelligent, educated laypeople REALLY STRUGGLE**
    with the distinction Atkinson has made. Nevertheless, this is exactly the
    distinction THEY (laypeople)**must?** make, or THEY (laypeople)
    will never GRANT the importance of EBP.

    7 - “Most importantly, **it is the only way to HELP Christian laypeople**
    make the distinction in their minds between
    evolution as biological mechanism and as Theory of Life.

    9 - “and it certainly **can lead to CONFUSION on the part of laypeople.**

    So... What do you think? Is “Pastor/Reverend” Keller sounding “superior?”

    Jer 50:6
    My people hath been lost sheep:
    **their shepherds** have caused them *to go astray*

    I’m Blest... Because I’ve returned to the Shepherd and Bishop of my soul.
    {{{{{{ Jesus }}}}}}


    NOPE - IMO - Keller is a brainiac - NOT a very good teacher - Not very accurate.
    But he sure does make himself sound important. ;-)


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