Unmasking the Domestic Abuser in the Church

A Typical Horror Story from an Old Box of Church Records

Prepare to be freaked out:

When a separation has taken place by the desertion of one spouse, the other is not automatically free to marry someone else. Paul’s counsel is to remain unmarried or be reconciled. The primary point is that reconciliation of a divided couple is always God’s will, not the seeking for someone who is a more compatible match. [From a study of divorce and remarriage by the board members and pastor of Idaville Bible Church, Tillamook, Oregon, 1986].

I have been the pastor of Christ Reformation Church (once known as Idaville Bible Church) for 26 years now. Not long after I came here, I was nosing through some old church records that were stuffed away in boxes in an attic. I couldn’t read them for very long. I saw turnover after turnover of pastors and I myself was in the midst of efforts to drive me away at that time. Recently, in cleaning out the old records, our church secretary found a file labeled “Divorce and Remarriage – Special Study by the Deacon Board.” Yikes! I checked it out. The above quote is taken from it.
Here are some more things I found. This is the typical stuff that turns into a horror story for victims of abuse who are Christians and who go to their pastor and church body for help.

There is a six page document, single-spaced, entitled “A General Biblical Perspective of Divorce and Remarriage.” This document is a summation of the study these deacons did, and which states the position that they no doubt enforced upon their flock:
Their reading of Matthew 19:9 in conjunction with Matthew 5:32-33 and Mark 10:2-12 and Luke 16:18 led them to conclude that:

…though divorce may be a possibility in certain circumstances [i.e., they say ONLY for adultery], pursuing reconciliation and restoration of a damaged marriage [“damaged marriage” is an example of rank minimization] has the foremost priority.  With this in mind, when evaluating divorce from Christ’s perspective:
1Divorce can be pursued in instances when one’s mate is rebellious and will not deal with nor repent of philandering and immoral sexual behavior. [Note the minimizing word they chose, “philandering”]. A one-night stand or an affair [MINIMIZING again, boys!] are not immediate grounds for divorce according to Christ’s choice of the word PORNEIA in the exception clause of Matthew 19:9. Persistent efforts at reconciliation and redemption are the offended mate’s first order of responsibility [WHAT??? THE RESPONSIBILITY LIES WITH THE VICTIM??] when dealing with an unfaithful marriage partner [Let’s see, would that be the same thing as what the Bible calls an adulterer who shall not enter the kingdom of God?].
2 Irreconcilable differences, lack of happiness, feeling unfulfilled, or anger, etc., are not biblical grounds for divorce. Divorce, within biblical confines, is only a concession to men’s hardened hearts. It is not a course to be pursued quickly, easily, nor with indifference or out of hostility. [Notice the COMPLETE ignorance of the very existence of abuse. It isn’t even mentioned here. Clueless, clueless, clueless].

So, hey everybody! Unless your spouse commits adultery and adultery and adultery, you are out of luck. Hmmm, I wonder if they would say this also applies to a husband who sexually molests a child? I guess if he just did it once, then it is the responsibility of his wife to fix things and keep him around.
Now, here is what I think is the worst part of the whole mess. I also found included in this file two letters. One is addressed to a faculty member of a theological seminary, and the other to a faculty member of a Bible college. Why did they write to these professors? Because, well, listen to it from their own pen:

We are writing to request input from you in regards to a recent study on divorce and remarriage which our church board has undertaken. Though we have unity regarding acceptable biblical grounds for divorce, we are unsettled in coming to a consensus regarding the issue of remarriage for the Christian.

Like soooo many church leaders, these men still couldn’t agree. Oh, they agreed on the erroneous conclusion they made about divorce only being permissible for HABITUAL adultery, but they couldn’t agree on the remarriage issue. In other words, they couldn’t agree. So what did they do? They ran to “the experts” who for the most part only manage to crank out books that don’t agree with one another either!
Yes, divorce and remarriage in the Bible are not easy subjects. But WHY then do so many church leaders, like this board of deacons, insist that they are going to come to a position, even though it differs from the positions of many other “experts,” and then enforce it upon poor victims? Even to the point of ex-communicating them?
Oh, and there is one final document in this file. The title is instructive:

An Attempted Harmonizing of Jesus’ Teaching on Divorce

I must pronounce this “attempt” an utter failure, and send this file to the shredder where it belongs.

Go back to the shadow. You shall not pass! [Gandalf to the big ugly whatever in the caves]


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  1. walkinginlight

    I would have gotten great joy shredding their legalistic documents in the shredder!! These kind of people remind me of the pharisees in Jesus’ days. They have “religion” but do not know the loving heart of God. They put heavy loads on a persons back which they refuse to carry. The Lord is full of love, mercy, and compassion and says that no good thing will the Father withhold from those that ask. He came to give life and give it more abundantly. To say that the woman of a wicked man who divorces can not be remarried and find some REAL companionship and happiness is cruel and withholding. The Lord wants His children here on earth to have some joy in their life. Yes, we all go through painful trials but God did not intend for His children’s lives to be one huge continuous trial! Would a human parent want to see their children in constant misery pining away for a real true friend? I don’t think so. Reading what these “pharisees” concluded angered me. You know the old saying “misery loves company”. I suspect men like this are miserable inside and have unfulfilling marriages themselves, so they don’t want anyone else to have some happiness!
    Pastor Jeff you are a gem. Thank you for shining a light on the lies or these “orators” of God.

  2. Amy

    Wow, crazy, but not unbelievable because I had similar things said to me by church leaders when my abusive ex walked out ten years ago.
    I think this sums it up:
    “The primary point is that reconciliation is ALWAYS God’s will…”
    Sadly, so many church leaders think they have taken on the role of God, that somehow their position puts them in a place of communicating God’s desires for our lives.
    I always love waking up to a new post from you, pastor Crippen because you understand what it means to be a a shepherd to your flock.

  3. Praying Lady

    Pastor Crippen, some of your comments in this and other posts just make me laugh out loud. This one is great: ” Go back to the shadow. You shall not pass! [Gandalf to the big ugly whatever in the caves]”
    The ludicrous nature of that study and the deacons’ conclusions is so typical of people who have no idea what it is like to live with a wolf in sheep’s clothing and THEY DO NOT KNOW THE HEART OF GOD.
    Thank you for another spot-on post. Keep up the fog-lifting articles that are such a breath of fresh air and full of TRUTH. May God bless and protect you and your family!

  4. Charity

    Unfortunately, I wasn’t freaked out…as it happened to me just last week. What *is* freaky to me is the organization of it all as illustrated by those documents. Um…Ephesians would have been shorter.
    And I agree…misery loves company. As we’re told in Romans..they know…and take pleasure in them that do them. I also LOVE waking up to truth. I work wicked early in the morning and always refreshing to listen or read as I prepare my mind for the day. Thank you also Pastor Crippen and everyone else around you, especially Verla. Body of Christ!:)

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