“(W)e acknowledge that spousal abuse dishonors the marriage covenant and fundamentally blasphemes the relationship between Christ and the church.” The
I was invited and had the privilege of speaking at the For Such a Time as This Rally in Dallas,
DALLAS, TX – June 5, 2018 – Discussing and responding to the epidemic of abuse within Protestant Christianity’s largest denomination
Read Part 1 here… Part 2 here… Part 3 here… Part 4 here… You, Lord, hear the desire of the
Part 4 is a continuation of a series on what scripture has to say about a woman’s worth and role.
This is the third part in a series on what scripture has to say about a woman’s worth and role.
Here is the continuation of Part one where we looked at several scriptures written by Paul to see if they
This series focuses on a woman’s worth, and a woman’s role in marriage. The Bible is proof positive that God
For far too long, women have suffered silently and ashamed in many church environments.
The Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) has a poor track record in its treatment of women.
Women have been fired from SBC seminaries simply because they are women.
Women have been told to stay in marriages in which they are being abused.
Women have been told that they must suffer rather than divorce.
Women have been told that they are at fault for being raped.
Women have been disciplined in Southern Baptist seminaries as a result of being raped.
Men who have spoken out against this treatment of women have been castigated.
Hidden violence Spousal abuse is a widespread sin that many churches ignore at their—and their members’—peril Hidden violence and
In case you’re not active on Twitter, I’ll tell you that tweets have been flying for a few months
If you are in an unsafe situation, please know that more than God hates divorce, He hates that you are being abused. God approves of you leaving and finding safety. In the margin of this website you will find links to help you decide if you are or are not safe; as well as, links to help you leave safely, or stay safely in the relationship while keeping a sound mind and a healthy heart.
I’ve wanted to address teachings sometimes heard in the church regarding marital abuse because it is this type of teaching that kept me and countless other Christian sisters in abusive marriages. I didn’t know if I would make it out alive, but did. Some women and children haven’t made it out alive.
This week John Piper once again made the news for his views on women, and why some men abuse women; doctrinal differences. He addresses reasons for cases of widespread abuse being reported in the news.
Cases that have recently been in the headlines include, but unfortunately are not limited to:
- Bill Cosby sexual assault and rape law suits include 58 alleged victims, 19 of which will be testifying against him in court. Jury selection for the Cosby trial is set to begin March 29 at the Montgomery County Courthouse in Norristown, Pa. The trial is scheduled for April 2.
- Harvey Weinstein is an American film producer and executive who is currently under investigation for multiple sexual assaults of at least 80 women which spanned 30 years. This scandal triggered similar allegations against powerful men around the world. It spurred the #MeToo movement.
- Sovereign Grace Ministries had multiple recorded cover-ups of sexual assault and rapes committed against children in their care.
- Saeed Abidni whose wife, Naghmeh Panahi, left him for proven allegations of domestic abuse, and unfaithfulness was recently arrested for violating a no-contact order.
- Andy Savage who is the teaching pastor at Highpoint Church in Memphis, TN sexually assaulted a girl in his youth group when he was a youth pastor 20 years ago. The staff at Highpoint supports and is attempting to save Savage’s ministry.
- Cases against Bill Gothard (and his board), founder of the Institute in Basic Life Principles. This was a ministry where teens left their homes to live at headquarters to help with ministry opportunities. With my background, I still find it disturbing that an unmarried single man ran a ministry where he had constant unsupervised time alone with individual students. This is child safety and ministry safety 101 at any Christian based institution and has been for decades: For the students’ protection they are to NEVER be left alone with one person. There is safety in numbers. (Unfortunately many pastors, staff, and teachers don’t adhere to this safety measure).
- The Catholic Church has been plagued with child sexual abuse cases for decades.
- Josh Duggar: Ashley Madison scandal and reports of child sexual molestation.
- The wife of Pastor Greg Locke of Global Vision Bible Church in Mount Juliet, Tennessee left him and is living in a shelter for safety and provisions. Although Greg Locke denies any wrong doing on his part I’ve read the hateful, scathing text messages he sent his wife about her weight, her looks, his disdain for her, and in which he used profane language against her. He was having a reported, emotional if not physical, relationship with his wife’s best friend who is also his secretary.
- Ravi Zacharias sexual grooming relationship with a woman not his wife. This case was settled out of court and neither side can legally speak about it. This is convenient for Ravi because I was sent some of the text messages/emails and there is no way he can conveniently talk his way out of his wrong doing. I won’t ever be able to listen to him teach again knowing what he wrote. Some of it was sinful and some of it was weird, but all of it was an abuse of his ministry position.
- Doug Wilson: I could write a book on the wrong theology of Doug Wilson and his wrongly placed allegiance to pedophiles who have attended his church. A 13 year old girl congregant was groomed, assaulted, and raped by a man from the church. Doug placed blame on the child because she was tall for her age, well developed for her age, and mature for her age. Doug Wilson preformed a wedding ceremony so a known pedophile at the church could marry a young woman from the church. It didn’t end well.
- I receive correspondence from pastor’s wives and missionary’s wives around the world who tell of abuse they suffer from their husbands.
- I minister to around 25 women in my area, the Christian homeschool community, who are living through or leaving severe abuse from their husbands.
- Rachael Denhollander was the first woman to publicly accuse USA Gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar (associated with Michigan State University) of sexually abusing her as a teenager, a case that led to more than 250 other victims coming forward for their day in court.
Rachael is a Christian who received her law degree from the Christian Oak Brook College of Law. This makes her the best credentialed child sexual abuse survivor to lead the charge in ridding our churches and institutions of predators, and teaching the public to always: believe the children first, contact the authorities second, and allow the law to sort it out.
Let me begin by stating my disagreement with Piper’s recent teaching in his article: Sex abuse allegations and the egalitarian myth. Piper’s argument is that the egalitarian doctrine, which teaches all people are equal in fundamental worth and social status and deserve equal rights and opportunities, has led to men becoming abusers since he doesn’t believe this is the way God intended men and women to function.
I highly disagree with his reasoning. Abuse is not a theological/doctrinal or marriage problem. It is an abuse problem. I find absolutely no scripture to back Piper’s claim. Jesus calls sin; sin.
Dear beloved church,
We must do better.
To be continued…
Afer all if we buy into, “Boys will be boys” we are reinforceing “Girls have no humanity; they’re just objects.”
This is in response to the Olympic gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar, who was convicted in court last month for molesting patients for years.
Thank you to the victims of these terrible crimes for using your trauma and pain for a great purpose that will serve future abuse victims.
Thank you, Rachael Denhollander, for using your talent to pursue justice. Sometimes it takes a wronged female attorney to change public policy and maintain a voice with which to be reckoned. I applaud you, thank you, and pray for you. By the way: your husband totally rocks for the powerful way he has publicly supported you and cheered you on through all of this. (I follow him on Twitter).
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is dispatching a team of civil rights investigators to Michigan State University to examine how the school handled allegations against former gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar, who was convicted of molesting patients for years.
“This new Title IX investigation will look at systemic issues in the University’s handling of sex-based incidents involving Dr. Larry Nassar,” DeVos said in a statement Monday.
The federal probe is only the latest for MSU, which is under investigation by the Michigan Attorney General’s Office and a congressional committee. It also faces dozens of lawsuits that allege it ignored reports and warning signs about Nassar’s predation going back to 1997.
DeVos’ announcement came hours before some of Nassar’s victims gathered in Lansing, Michigan, for a news conference on new state legislation prompted by the case. The bills would change the statute of limitations for sexual crimes against children, expand the class of people who must report claims of sexual abuse to law enforcement, and allow prosecutors to use evidence of prior assaults at trial.
“We are learning activism creates action,” said Olympic gold medalist Jordyn Wieber, who revealed last month that Nassar preyed upon her.
Rachael Denhollander top of page: photo credit; Twitter public profile picture
In case you haven’t seen the headline I’ll fill you in on yet another spiritual battle taking 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.
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.
“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
“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.”
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.