Tag Archives: Ann Voskamp

14 points the church needs to hear in the wake of the Andy Savage sexual assault case

In case you haven’t seen the headline I’ll fill you in on yet another spiritual battle takingAnn Voskamp quote place in the church.

I‘m referring to the applause of a crowd that was unfortunately heard around the globe, and no one was listening more intently than abuse survivors and non-Christians.  It was sad, it was wrong, and as an abuse survivor I can tell you; in a way it revictimized many souls.

It involves Andy Savage, the teaching pastor at Highpoint Church in Memphis, TN. According to the church website “Andy’s personal mission statement is, ‘Making God make sense, starting at home then everywhere else.’ Whether Andy is teaching, writing, or relationship coaching, Andy strives to live out his life’s passion of creatively communicating God’s truth in a way that connects with people where they are. Andy teaches every Sunday at one of three Highpoint campuses and is the lead visionary for marriage, parenting, and family life ministry. He is also a national speaker, the author of multiple books, and host of the Andy Savage Radio Show and podcast.”

I understand mistakes and the folly of youth. Seriously, I regretfully took many field trips dedicated to the foolishness of youth. This sexual assault case goes beyond a youthful mistake. Even if it were consensual, which it wasn’t according to the victim and the church in Texas. Texas law considered the age difference and the act a felony, and the Bible considers it sin.

What concerns me about the Andy Savage situation is that over the years he has so easily disassociated from his deception. These types of people are the ones who can be the most spiritually, physically, and sexually dangerous.

I can’t imagine how difficult this is for Mr. Savage’s wife. From past experience I can make an educated guess and deduct that if she had heard anything about it; it didn’t begin to resemble the truth.

Here are 14 points the church needs to understand:

1)       Most churches error on this: The church body tends to value the institution (church) above the safety and health of the one who is/was being abused. Most of all, the church is valuing the institution over Jesus.

2)       “She said that a pastor of the church, The Woodlands Parkway Baptist Church, urged her to stay quiet when she told him what had happened. Instead of telling her to inform the authorities, he told her that the church would address the episode internally.”  This is typical. The church believes they need to protect the reputation of the church and of Jesus. They often use the scripture from 1 Corinthians 6 about not taking a believer to court. This amounts to incorrectly applying scripture. The church’s responsibility was to call law enforcement and allow them to investigate. It was also the church’s job to remove Andy Savage from ministry and follow-up on any new ministry Andy Savage attempted to gain.

3)       There is a huge difference between forgiveness and restoration of relationship; personally or professionally.

4)       Any church leader or staff, regardless of age, who sexually victimizes another person, should never again be in a position of leadership (I Timothy 3 & Ephesians 5:3).

5)       If you are informed about a past sexual ‘incident’ or abuse by a church leader it is NOT appropriate to give the said church leader a standing ovation. For any reason…ever!

6)      If you are informed about a past sexual ‘incident’ or abuse by a church leader it is ALSO NOT appropriate to justify or make minimizing statements about the victim.

7)      Andy Savage went against scripture and went against church policy yet the church partially blamed her. No! He was her youth leader. He committed a crime.

8)       “When a person tells factually true things to cast an impression that they know to be false, they’re lying even though everything they’ve said is true. And they KNOW they are lying.” Dr. George Simon Jr., PhD. clinical psychologist with decades of experience working w/ abusers.

9)      After Andy finished addressing the congregation, church members stood and applauded him for about 20 seconds. The lead pastor at Highpoint, Chris Conlee, told the congregation that he supported Mr. Savage, who he said was one of the people “hurt by the ripple effect of the consequences of that sin.” I wonder if Pastor Conlee understands the depth of the problem? He should be supporting Andy Savage in resigning from the ministry and directing him and his wife to excellent counseling. For Mrs. Savage, I highly recommend Christ centered counselor Leslie Vernick who is accessible on the internet, and/or Patrick Doyle who can be found on YouTube.

10)   Church, I understand that you may have been replying, “We love you too” when you gave the standing ovation. Andy closed with, “I love you all very much,”  at which point, you, the congregation rose to applaud. I imagine you didn’t mean to applaud a sexual crime. But it still gave painful implications. When is the church going to stop with harsh judgments and quick grace at the wrong time and places? This deeply wounds victims of sexual abuse, marital unfaithfulness, and domestic violence.

11)   If Andy Savage were truly repentant he would stop defending himself. His goal would be to cause no further harm to the victim.

12)  I often see defendants in abuse cases use spiritual language as a powerful weapon of deception.

13)   After watching the church service and comparing it to his radio interview, I don’t think he fully acknowledges his actions, plus he admitted to lying. It sounds like he is grasping to hold on to his position at this mega church and the prestige that comes with the position.

14)   Church, we need to avoid cliché sayings like, ‘it was a long time ago.’ We need to support the victim and hold the defendant responsible. We must be better at handling abuse allegations and admissions.

The below video shows the conversation I’m referring to in minutes 12:00 – 22:45

12:00 – 22:45

The pastor tearfully informs his congregation that what they “witness today will give you incredible confidence in what love is all about. I pray that what you witness today will give you hope that healing is available for every single person.” The pastor then goes on to implore people to listen to everything before they evaluate what they hear because it will touch emotions, feelings, and the heart strongly.

I disagree.

This isn’t about processing emotions or working through phases of the issue. It was wrong. It was unlawful. Andy Savage should not be in the ministry. I highly question the leadership of anyone who handles sexual misconduct by saying we can find ways to agree and work this out. There is room to disagree? Why does anyone need to respect Andy Savage and welcome him on the church staff? I know I’ve walked this road longer than most people, but I’m exhausted from the church not recognizing the sin while making excuses for it. Church, we must do better! I don’t believe in a pastor using their power to encourage the congregation to ignore scripture and gloss over felony law breaking, sin, and abuse of leadership power. Yes, the church wants to facilitate the  healing of brokenness in people’s lives. But…healing and restoration do not equal restored relationship with a person or with their place of employment/ministry. Yes, Pastor Conlee, love does cover a multitude of sins but it is wrongly applied to illegal sexual conduct by church staff against a student. Love does not equal acceptance of the abuser in a continued ministry position, or the acceptance of the abuse.

I could go on for pages about the gross misapplication of scriptures in this case. I could commentate for hours on the discrepancies found by comparing the recorded church service to the interview of Andy Savage conducted by Ben Ferguson. Why? For starters Mr. Savage originally lied to his church staff and lied to the girl’s parents. His story changed as the progression of facts were revealed. His interviews from Sunday and The Ben Ferguson Radio Show don’t add up to truth. We go back to a foundational fact: When we tell the truth we can remember what we said. When we lie…well…we can’t remember what we said and therefore get caught up in deceit, explanations, word spinning, justifying, spiritualizing, and denial.

I love the church. God can truly use the church to encourage us, grow us, and shape us—but I hate it when God’s children are abused by church people. I will never defend a man who has abused his leadership position of power to harm a girl or woman’s heart, soul, mind, or strength.

Our loyalty to church leadership can be good, noble and true. But when loyalty to an institution’s structure allows evil to continue, or hide, it is loyalty wrongly placed—a false loyalty.  netgrace

“In order to escape accountability for his crimes, the perpetrator does everything in his power to promote forgetting. Secrecy and silence are the perpetrator’s first line of defense. If secrecy fails, the perpetrator attacks the credibility of his victim. If he cannot silence her absolutely, he tries to make sure that no one listens. To this end, he marshals an impressive array of arguments, from the most blatant denial to the most sophisticated and elegant rationalization. After every atrocity one can expect to hear the same predictable apologies: it never happened; the victim lies; the victim exaggerates; the victim brought it upon herself; and in any case it is time to forget the past and move on. The more powerful the perpetrator, the greater is his prerogative to name and define reality, and the more completely his arguments prevail.”

Trauma and Recovery, by Judith Herman Photo credit to Sarah Faith Hodges

Skin is the outer layer of the soul — and touching someone’s skin is touching someone’s soul.”

  “When someone gropes your body, they grab a bit of your soul, the part of you that speaks, and it can take years, decades, for you to gather up the pieces of your voice and slice the silence with truth.”

From: Dear Predators Who Don’t Know (Or Maybe Do) That They are Predators: (And How to Not Raise Another Generation of Predators), by Ann Voskamp

Lastly, if you want to be better trained in how to handle situations like these I highly recommend Christ centered counselor Leslie Vernick who trains church leaders and counselors to recognize and respond to abusive behaviors. She also helps you minister to those who have been traumatized by abusers. An organization that will come in to churches and train staff and lay leaders is G.R.A.C.E. Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment.

 

Click here for the full account as told by the victim: Jules Woodson

Click here: Leslie Vernick- Christ-Centered Counseling

Leslie Vernick: Facebook Enriching Relationships that Matter Most

Memphis Pastor Admits ‘Sexual Incident’ With High School Student 20 Years Ago 

Andy Savage Twitter public profile picture
Andy Savage Twitter public profile picture

Memphis pastor Andy Savage sees publisher cancel book, petition calling for resignation over sex assault 

Toxic Tuesday: Narcissistic Parents Part 2

Toxic Tuesday biochem hazard smallNovember 4, 2014 – Joy S.

Well, happy readers, thank you again to Carolyn for allowing me to rejoin you for Part 2 of Toxic Tuesday:  Narcissistic Personality Disordered Parent. In my last post, I promised to share strategies I’ve discovered for escaping unforgiveness toward a NPD parent.  Lest you think that I was “spiritual” enough to figure them out on my own, I will start with a disclaimer.

For the LONGEST time I knew forgiveness was the correct Christian response and I felt terribly guilty over my bitterness toward my NPD parent.  Sometimes I’d think that I was over the hurt.  Then something would reveal deep bitterness in my heart, and the cycle would begin again.  I questioned my salvation.  I knew there were other people who had truly forgiven their rapists, their child’s murderer, or the crook who stole their entire life savings.  Since these were all much worse tragedies than what I suffered, I thought maybe I wasn’t sufficiently motivated by obedience or love of God.   For years I lived with the pain of my parent’s abuse compounded by the guilt of unforgiveness/disobedience to God.  It took its toll.  I was diagnosed with clinical depression, took meds, went to lots of counseling (some of it super and some flakey!), and was tempted by cutting and suicide.

In reading the Bible, I would encounter passages like the parable of the Unforgiving Servant (Mt 18: 23-35):

  23 “Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24 As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold was brought to him. 25 Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt. 26 At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ 27 The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.

      28 “But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins.  He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded. 29 “His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.’ 30 “But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt.

31 “When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened. 32 Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. 33 Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ 34 In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.

35 “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”

Well, that just chilled me to the marrow.  “I want to forgive!  I want to forgive!  Please show me how,” I’d pray.  I’d pick the brains of godly people who seemed at peace with the deep hurts they suffered.  Bless those saints for their patience with me.  I kept reading the Bible. Gradually I began to see what forgiveness was, and what it wasn’t.

So to start, let me clarify some common myths about forgiveness that may be stumbling you on your road to healing.

Myth #1). “If I forgive someone, then that’s the same as saying that they didn’t do anything very bad.  My painful feelings will be discounted.”

FALSE.

My pain was real.  Your pain is REAL, too.  I want to make it clear at the start that forgiveness toward the NPD parent doesn’t mean that your wounds are imaginary or slight.  Just because your NPD parent denies that they have ever done anything wrong and that you are “overly sensitive/crazy/unreasonable” doesn’t mean that it’s the Truth.

(You may feel, as I have, that it if only your scars had been from physical abuse, that at last you’d be believed, that you’d have proof of what you suffered, that others would understand why you hurt as you do and are wary of other’s motives.  Maybe you don’t have another person in your life who can understand what you’ve been through, your pain and pit of heartache that you can’t ever “happy thought” your way out of.  If so, let me be the first one to say, “I believe you.”  I do, promise.  And I KNOW you are NOT crazy.  :-)!!!  I believe you, because I have been there.  God protected me from the desperate acts of my pain so that I am still here to write this.  And because you’re reading this, I know He is doing the same thing for you.  He brought you to this post for HOPE.  If we were face to face right now, I would willingly listen to you tell me every memory from years ago, or just last week.  I would pass you tissues, nod my head in agreement, share stories of my own childhood and holiday nightmares, etc., and generally affirm YOU.  You didn’t bring this on yourself, you are not flawed (oh, absolutely not), and you are not a mistake.

Your life is not a mistake.  It is a marvelous tapestry woven by God’s nail-scarred Hand.  At this moment He’s working in some dark threads in order to make the bright colors pop all the more.  Your pain is the dark thread.  Forgiveness won’t change that thread’s color, anymore than it can remove the scar from His Hand.  But forgiveness repurposes the pain into beauty.  Trust Him.  When He’s done, your life will radiate His glory!)

But let’s get back to topic of Truth.  I want to as delicately as I can point out that my NPD parent wasn’t the only sinner in our relationship.  I was, too.  True, I didn’t have the same position of authority or responsibility that they had before God, but honesty compels me to admit that I often choose to sin against them out of spite for their unjust treatment of me.  Am I alone in this behavior? Hmmm?  I think you know what I am talking about.

Let me go another step further.  By myopically focusing on our parent’s faults and disorder, we risk missing a clear view of who we are in God’s eyes – selfish, little rebels against His sweet Love.  Listen, do you think you lived with an NPDer and did not have some of that rubbed off on you?  My NPD parent never thought they did anything wrong.  If they EVER apologized, it was usually five to ten years after their egregious behavior.  So, when I got married and my spouse and I had a fight, it was ALWAYS their fault, not mine.  ‘Cause I was perfect.  When I began to see that I was being just like my NPD parent – aahhhhh!!!! – I realized that my spouse wasn’t the first person I had treated like that.  In fact, unless I/you pray and ask God to show us the narcissistic habits we’ve picked up, and forgive us, and reprogram us by His Word, we are doomed to repeat our parent’s mistakes.  Whatever was done to you doesn’t absolve you of the guilt of doing those things now.

Nor does it relieve you of a need and duty to forgive.  Our unforgiveness is at least as loathsome to God as our NPD parent’s treatment of us.  Both make warped mirrors of the relationship between the Heavenly Father and His Child.  Both are far from His heart of love and His plan for the family.  So regardless of who is older, or knows better, or started the provocation, God expects us to pursue forgiveness.

Humor me for a moment, and revisit the Parable you just read.  Each of these servants knows that they are a debtor to the Master, with no other purpose but to please him. Except the rogue servant.  Obviously he didn’t get the memo about his job.  He thinks of the Master’s will as a side gig, not the main event.  Once he’s clobbered his fellow debtor, then he’ll get back to work.  His focus is on himself.  And his money.  He doesn’t care about the Master or the Master’s kindness to him.

Friends, this is me!  You!  Us!  If all you can think about is how you got ripped off when they were passing out parents, this is you.  You want your due, the debt owed you, paid.  I get that.  I used to spend considerable energy itemizing the bill I wanted paid – by my parent, by God for choosing that parent, by the world for my pain.  I was YOU.  The rogue servant. Funny thing though.  In all of my itemizing, I never calculated what I owed God, at least, not in detail, for the Cross, for His daily forgiveness of a hundred (that number may be a bit low!) selfish, unloving thoughts and actions.

Remember those dark threads of your life?  “Yeah, I know ALL about them,” you say.  I know you do.  I know you do.  But do you know as much about the brightly colored ones? Have you counted them?  Can you name them?

Have you ever made a list of those threads?

Here’s my partial list:

– For flannel sheets on chilly autumn nights.

– For the chocolate pumpkin bread recipe that reminds me of a particular happy childhood memory.

– For cute and comfy shoes that make me happy!

– For hot, steamy shower first thing in the morning.

– For breath.

– For mercy.

– For my parents who choose life for me in spite of their dead souls and a culture that legitimizes selfishness.

– For deliverance from things like pornography and alcohol that I could have become addicted to so easily based on examples I saw growing up.

– For the stupidity of bad decisions I made out of pain that will forever remind me that I am not as smart or capable as my narcissistic tendencies would have me believe.

– For bouts of depression that have equipped me to minister to some of the most precious, suffering people I’ve met.

– For another 24 hours to heal and help others heal.

– For a chance to welcome the orphan and stranger because I know the pain of feeling rejected and alone.

– For my family who knows what I struggle to overcome and bears with me on the days I fail.

– For a camaraderie among my closest friends, each with toxic or NPD parents in their life, who understand my sadness that I will likely never have the relationship with my earthly parent that I yearn for.

– For my generous God-Daddy who has redeemed me from the empty way of life handed down to me.

– For a new eternal family in Christ that far surpasses what I missed.

– For God’s Grace that His Spirit blinds my children to the bad example I often set, so that they love and obey him in a way that I didn’t at their age.

Listen, you may think you’ve been ripped off in some pretty unfair ways. But I guarantee you that your life is much richer than you know.  You think you have been beggared.  Well, if you have a real relationship with God based on His generous forgiveness and love lavished on you by Jesus’s death, then, my friend … YOU are a MILLIONAIRE in everything that matters or lasts.  (If you don’t have this relationship yet, you can!)

Make your list.  And please make it long… for your sake.  And then review it weekly and add to it. (If you need help, check out a superb book by Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are.  It helped me tremendously.)

So before I move on, let me sum up the Truth here.  Yes, your pain is real, but it can live amidst great joy if you identify and meditate on your blessings.  God is the most generous Being in the Universe.  Whatever your loss, none of it is nearly as valuable as all the other blessings you’ve received from Him.  God’s great forgiveness to the unworthy and His scarred Hands both coexist without negating the other.  In the same way, forgiveness toward your NPDer and your wounds can coexist without diminishing each other.

 

And we’ll be back next Toxic Tuesday to tie this post together with myths 2 & 3.