Stephanie’s Story – Part 5 – More Letters from the “Pastor”

We continue with Stephanie’s story of abuse not only at the hands of her ex-husband but in some ways even more so by her ex-pastor and church. If you have not read the first 4 parts of her story in earlier posts, be sure to do so.

Part 1   Part 2   Part 3   Part 4

Here is an email sent to her by the Pastor.  I continue to not use his name, but honestly he deserves to have his name and his evil words here posted on the mountaintops:
Please forgive me for taking so long to send this email but I have been extremely busy since last week. I have attached a copy of the minutes from the church meeting last week so you can see exactly what was discussed. Per section 4 of our church Constitution, The church cannot accept your letter of resignation at this time because I have recommended you to the church as a candidate for church discipline. This recommendation was given because at this point you have refused to meet for counseling since November of last year and you are not willing to continue to work on saving your marriage. The church will be meeting again this evening to determine whether to proceed with church discipline or not. If they don’t proceed with church discipline, they will be free to accept your letter of resignation at this time. I would encourage you to please come to the meeting to voice your side of the story before the church votes on this matter. If you can’t make it, you can call in by phone or you can send me an email that I would read on your behalf. Please understand that we still love you as a sister and we are deeply concerned and we are praying for you and your husband.
By His Grace and For His Glory,
Pastor ________
Can you imagine an abuse victim going to a lynch mob meeting like this at the church and “voicing her side of the story”?  Oh yeah. That would end well I’m sure!!
And here is the section from the church meeting minutes he sent her in which the entire church membership dove into the fray (against her of course). Words in brackets [ ]are my insertions:

Issue of the ______ family/recent communications and update (informational)
a. Review of constitution and discipline policies/procedures (handouts given)
b. Reading of Matt 16:13-19 “upon this rock I will build my church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.”
c. Letter of Resignation has been received from Stephanie to families
of church that includes the details regarding the circumstances of her marital union
d. Records of all communication is available for church members who desire to know the context of the circumstances to review due to the public nature of the circumstances
e. “Love covers a multitude of sins…” issues were being worked on privately to counsel both Terrance and attempts to reach out to counsel Stephanie in pursuit of this biblical guidance
f. Details of Pastoral guidance were shared:
i. Meeting in October with [abuser] and Stephanie by Pastor  and
[pastor’s wife]; plan of action was determined
ii. Met again with Terrance and Stephanie in November with Pastor and another biblical counselor (a couple) at her request
iii. Ladies of church have reached out to meet and counsel with Stephanie;
iv. Most recently, Stephanie has not shown a willingness to be counseled by both Pastor and/or the other counselor;
v. Terrance confessed his sin against God and his wife before the
congregation; confessed his sinful anger, emotion at the counseling
meeting and vengeance regarding the naming of another woman
to a cruise manifest. He summarized that he has not been leading his wife the way the Lord has commanded him to. He is requesting that the church continue to pray for him that his wife returns to him.
vi. We have identified that the home is the center of contention and bringing the condition of the property to a mutually “acceptable” state is the primary issue
vii. Stephanie, at this point, has given up on the marriage and is not willing to continue to work on the relationship
viii. Working through the issue biblically and communicating in a Godly manner to resolve conflict is at the heart of the matter; there must be mutual submission to one another and reverence for biblical process to arrive at peaceful resolution
ix. Brother ________ asked if there is any house work that need to be done to help the issue.
x. Church discussed response to letter of resignation;
1. Brother ________ asked if there has been any adultery or physical abuse; it was assumed based upon the communication that has been shared that Bro. Terrance has not been physically abusive or
not in an adulterous relationship.
2. Persistent theme is the refusal to meet with or counsel with Pastor;
it is assumed that, according to her refusal to resolve this
in a biblical manner, there is a disregard of biblical authority and
unwillingness to abide by the constitution process adopted by the
church.
3. There is an acknowledgment in the communications received from
Sis. Stephanie that she has no biblical grounds to seek a divorce;
she has been absent from church attendance/meetings and
moved from the marital residence.
4. Bro. ________ suggested she be given an opportunity to address
the church regarding her resignation and the circumstances of her
estrangement from her husband.
5. According to the situational assessment of Pastor, she is a
“proper candidate” for church discipline and recommendation for
church response will be determined at a follow up meeting.
6. We are to pray for our dear sister and brother that they be
reconciled to one another and that Sis. Stephanie would be
reconciled to this church body.

And there you have it. What a horror story! I have no words.

Stephanie’s Story – Part 4 (Communiques from the Devil)

Here are some of the typical emails and letters that were sent to Stephanie by her (now ex) pastor. This is the very kind of thing that is laid upon victims by their churches. I will just post a few here and more in a subsequent post, including the formal letter of ex-communication. I will be very interested in everyone’s comments in response to what this “pastor” says in these communications to Stephanie:

Good morning, I know you are still emotional hurt and upset but It is vitally important that [Pastor’s wife] and I meet with you without [abuser] asap. I saw your messages and there is no biblical grounds for divorce by either one of you at this point. As your Pastor, I’m duty bound to warn you that to do so at this point would be a grave SIN against God. I do agree that sometime apart for both of you to get counseling would be wise but that is totally different than divorce. I have been counseling with [abuser] and the Lord seems to be doing some amazing work upon his heart. Please let me know the earliest you are able to meet.
From [Pastor]

This next one is rather long, and in fact does not include the second half in which the pastor cites scriptures to forbid Stephanie from divorcing her abuser. But here is enough to handle for now. Wicked. It is like reading a letter from the devil:

Continue reading “Stephanie’s Story – Part 4 (Communiques from the Devil)”

Marriage is Made for People, Not People for Marriage

The teaching of the church has compounded much of this hurt rather than alleviating it. Victims of continued abuse have been told they must stay married, and if they do get divorced, they have been told they cannot remarry until their former partner has died. And sometimes those who have divorced and remarried are told by their church that they must now divorce their new spouse because in God’s eyes they are still married to the person who abused or neglected them. Thus the church makes them a victim for a second time. (Instone-Brewer 2003, [Kindle] Location 1795)

One of our readers asked if we could post the following paragraphs from my book, A Cry for Justice*, pp202-4 as she found them so helpful.  So, here they are! Thanks to her for typing them up for us:

Continue reading “Marriage is Made for People, Not People for Marriage”

How to Create an Abusive Church

I don’t like to think about spiritual abuse, or abusive churches, or abusive pastors.  I don’t like it.  For one reason, this is because the abusers I have had to deal with over the years as a pastor LOVE to accuse me and our elders and our church of having abused them.   So I am sensitive to this subject.  Sometimes when it comes up, my self-doubts kick in.  Maybe I am guilty?  Maybe we have abused people?  But then, and I think it is the Lord helping me at those moments, I go back and remember what those abusers did and how they abused.  And I realize that the mere fact that I am presently anxious about the horror of us as a church abusing people is probably not an attitude to be found in a truly abusive church.

I think we are a church, and I am a pastor, who has certainly made mistakes in handling people in the past.  There have probably been instances in which we have even sinned – and in those cases I hope that we have confessed to anyone we have wronged.  No pastor can truly study the subject of domestic violence abuse and not conclude that there were instances in the past that he would have handled at least somewhat differently – and in some cases, entirely differently.  Oh, and one other thing that comes to my mind when I study abuse and think about abusers in the church and how they are to be dealt with – I realize that we were blind to them far too long and let them do their evil far, far too long.  If anything, I think that has been our major error in this regard.

I don’t like to think about spiritual abuse.  But we MUST think about it, see it, and reject it, lest we become like it.

Well, that’s the rather rambling prologue to the subject – How to Create an Abusive Church.   Listen once again to those verses in 1 Cor 2 –

1 Corinthians 2:1-5 ESV And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. (2)  For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. (3)  And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, (4)  and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, (5)  that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.

I highlighted verse 5 because that is the one I want us to think about.  How do you create an abusive church?  How do you build a “thing” that has all the “Christian” exterior frills, but is devoid of the presence of Jesus?  Well, Paul says that one way to do it is to build it on a man’s (or woman’s) personality.  Charm.  Charisma.  Call in Pastor Golden-Tongue.  Team him up with Pastor Novelty.  What will happen is that as this cult of personality expands, the faith of the populace will be based upon (have its object as) – these ring leaders.  The church bookstore will be filled with Golden Tongue’s books and sermon tapes.  He has plenty to say on any subject you can think of.  The youth group and children’s ministries and even the senior ministry will have that flair that only Pastor Novelty can pull off.

And it will grow.  Oh, how it will grow.  And the money?  The buildings?  Who can argue with success, right?

Yet none of it, NONE of it is of God.  The “faith” there rests upon the so-called wisdom of man (which is foolishness in reality), and is totally devoid of the saving, regenerating power of God.

And the POWER.  Feel the electricity of the power.  Listen to it in the voice of Golden-Tongue and in the excitement of Novelty.  It streams through in the music too.  Tears flow.  Hallelujahs are shouted.

And none of it is of Jesus.  None of it.  So guess what you have.  You have a thing, a monster, that is devoid of the love of Jesus.  You have created a house made comfortable for some uninvited guests, who most certainly are going to show up one day –

Matthew 12:43-45 ESV “When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, but finds none. (44)  Then it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when it comes, it finds the house empty, swept, and put in order. (45)  Then it goes and brings with it seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and dwell there, and the last state of that person is worse than the first. So also will it be with this evil generation.”

Victims of abuse simply will not find mercy and justice and kindness in such a place.  Furthermore, the widespread experience of the many Christians who have been victimized by abuse and who have told us their stories of how they were mistreated and rejected by their churches, tell us something else.  It tells us that perhaps Pastor Golden Tongue and his associate, Pastor Novelty, are not only to be found in the huge mega-churches.  They may well be standing in far more of our pulpits today than we would even want to admit. How many of Jeremiah’s words here apply to the condition of the evangelical church today?

Jeremiah 6:14-19 ESV They have healed the wound of my people lightly, saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ when there is no peace. (15)  Were they ashamed when they committed abomination? No, they were not at all ashamed; they did not know how to blush. Therefore they shall fall among those who fall; at the time that I punish them, they shall be overthrown,” says the LORD. (16)  Thus says the LORD: “Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls. But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.’ (17)  I set watchmen over you, saying, ‘Pay attention to the sound of the trumpet!’ But they said, ‘We will not pay attention.’ (18)  Therefore hear, O nations, and know, O congregation, what will happen to them. (19)  Hear, O earth; behold, I am bringing disaster upon this people, the fruit of their devices, because they have not paid attention to my words; and as for my law, they have rejected it.

 

The Religion of the Pharisees (Part 7)

Matthew 6:1-8 Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. “Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. “And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

As we continue to examine the religion of the modern Pharisee, let’s remind ourselves that the first place to look for it is within ourselves. It is the religion of sinful flesh, and we all have plenty of that remaining in us.  Pharisaism is form without reality.  It is the motions of religion devoid of the presence of Christ.  And it is heartless.  Don’t expect love or mercy or real kindness from it.

As our Lord warns us here in this second chapter of the Sermon on the Mount, Pharisaical religion is about show. It is about self-glorification, not about the glory of God.  The Pharisee craves to be seen, and he has numbers of ways of getting that attention.  He gives money to the church and makes certain everyone knows about it — or at least those who are in a position to exalt him.  In Jesus’ day trumpets sounded as the hypocrites dropped their money in the box.  How much do you want to bet that the more you gave, the more trumpets sounded!  Pharisees crave praise, and all too often they receive it in their churches.

Continue reading “The Religion of the Pharisees (Part 7)”

The Religion of the Pharisees (Part 6)

Matthew 5:17-20, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

Let’s remind ourselves once more that the New Pharisaism in our churches is, in my opinion, responsible to a large extent for the sorry treatment that abuse victims are receiving at the hands of their fellow Christians.  That is the reason for this series of articles.

What do we find here in this second mention of the Pharisees in Matthew’s Gospel? Well, the Lord Jesus says that the “righteousness” of this religion is deficient.  It is not a righteousness that can bring a single person into the kingdom of heaven.  You can’t be saved by it.  And that means that anyone who is an adherent of this religion has embraced a false gospel and cannot be saved in it.  That is not to say that genuine Christians cannot be affected and mislead by it.  I am sure this happens more than we would like to think.

Continue reading “The Religion of the Pharisees (Part 6)”

Patriarchal Abusive Marriage is a Counterfeit of Marriage — and thus is very Deceiving

My husband does not permit me to sin. When I sin, he sends me to my room and tells me to stay there until my attitude is godly again.

Those words were spoken by a pastor’s wife to a group of Christian women/wives. Their response?  “Oh, what a model of a godly marriage.”

It was anything but that. And yet, these ladies believed it. They craved it for themselves. They believed that this woman’s husband was high and holy, far above their own husbands. Why? How could they possibly believe that such a thing as this pastor’s wife described is biblical, Christian, genuine marriage? In part, I suggest that the answer is that the enemy is a master counterfeiter. He is a liar and a deceiver. He sends false Jesus figures, false Christs, false pastors, false pastor wives, false Christians into our midst and these counterfeits are quite often, outwardly, genuine in appearance.

Patriarchal abusive marriage is a counterfeit of biblical marriage. It boasts of “submission” but runs with that idea and turns it into slavery. It lauds “headship” and presents the abuser to us as a model of that headship. He tells her what clothes to wear and she wears them, and only them. He tells her she must obey him, and she obeys him. He tells her what the true interpretation of Scripture is, and she believes him. The children appear to be a model of obedience to their parents, and the rest of the families in the church wish their children and homes looked like that.

But the whole thing is false. It is a sham. The marriage. The home. The family. The whole thing is bogus, an imitation, but only an imitation, and a very deceptive one. It is an idol created by man to bring us into bondage.

Do you envy some marriage or family in your church? Are the objects of your envy regarded by the church as a model of godliness? Take care. You may very well have been duped by a deception. The genuine is often in the background, unseen, following Christ humbly rather than blowing trumpets on street corners.

Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. “Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. (Mat 6:1-4)