Spousal Abuse and Tending the Flock

Spousal abuse is a delicate topic in any community, but can be especially difficult to discuss within a conservative Christian environment where the stigma and ramifications of divorce often leave victims feeling as if they’ve experienced abuse all over again—this time at the hands of the church. For this reason, the author of this piece has been granted anonymity to share her story. -Ed

About a week ago, a young woman witnessed her abusive ex-husband welcomed into the Adventist church with open arms. Years earlier she had committed the “sin” of marrying a non-Adventist. Even in their early dating days, pastors had flocked around them, pecking at the young man to convert. At one point, he told the woman that though he didn’t accept many of the core beliefs of the church, he’d be happy to convert if it would make it easier to marry her. She declined this idea. After all, joining a faith under false pretenses is worse than not joining at all. Isn’t it? And the young man was a Christian already. By all outward appearances, a better, more faithful follower of Christ than any Adventist young man she’d ever met.

When they married, a non-Adventist pastor officiated, of course. Even after the marriage, well-meaning Adventists still voiced their concerns that the two were unequally yoked. As if marrying a fellow Adventist automatically solves that problem (and every other problem a young marriage will face).

When the young man became abusive shortly into their marriage, the young woman clung to everything the church had taught her—pray more, try harder to be a better wife, divorce is a sin. When he shut down every conversation (whether religious, political, health-related or otherwise) with “you only believe that because you’ve been brainwashed by that cult,” she stood her ground. When he pressured her to cut ties with her family because they were Adventist, she refused. And after five years, when her marriage finally reached the point where she knew it was only a matter of time before he killed her, she left.

Reactions from the Adventists around her often included “It serves you right for marrying a non-Adventist” and “You should have known better.” As if the young woman hadn’t grown up witnessing “good

Adventist men” abusing their wives. “Abuse is not biblical grounds for divorce,” was also lobbed her way by the select few she had confided in about her reasons for leaving.

While the young woman was enduring threats of violence by the young man who now lived a short distance away, the church was waging its own assault. Against her, but not against him. More than ever, church members rallied to the young man in support, to lift him up, to show him what a wonderful place the Adventist church is, and how supportive its members are when you’re in crisis. The irony was not lost on the young woman, though she felt very lost in other ways.

There were a few individuals who stood by her. Who supported the young woman through this very difficult time. But the vast majority of those people were not Adventists. She found solace and comfort from Catholics, Baptists, atheists. People who stayed with her when she was too afraid to be alone. Who brought her food. Who called to ask how she was doing. Who said, “we’re so sorry you’re going through this, what can we do?” or who simply listened.

He showed up regularly on her doorstep. Threatening, telling her what a “bad wife” she was, reminding her that she was responsible for his actions—she drove him to it. He had brief moments of remorse, where he would beg to come back home, say that he was changed and knew how to be a good husband now. But these moments were fleeting and it was never long before his personality shifted back to the husband she had known and he returned to staunchly admitting no wrong doing.

While she lived in fear of him, and felt increasingly isolated from the church she was born and raised in, the young man began attending church and Sabbath School regularly, bolstered by the support of the Adventists who made it their mission to surround him. Soon, he was invited to teach a small church group. And now, three years after the dust of their former marriage has settled, he has officially joined the Adventist church by profession of faith, welcomed and loved and accepted wholly, while she is still relegated to the outskirts, the fringes, the unworthy.

He is a success of the Adventist church. A product of the remnant faith, and of the fervent witnessing of those who have the truth. And the young woman? She is a failure. A smudge mark on the church’s record. During that same service where the young man professed his faith, the pastor called for more baptisms, more numbers to join the ranks of the Adventist church. And the young woman couldn’t help but wonder, how different would our church be if we spent more time tending the flock we already have, rather than stealing others’ sheep. If our energy went to consoling the hurting and mending the broken already among us. If we were a church that others sought out because our care and compassion cannot be contained within church walls, rather than a church that has to trample its fallen in the quest for inflating its numbers.

"My people have been lost sheep. Their shepherds have led them astray and turned them loose in the mountains. They have lost their way and can't remember how to get back to the sheepfold.” Jeremiah 50:6 (NLT)


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/6632

A sad story. Mistakes all around. I can’t condone the behavior of anyone in this story. The church should have been more supportive of the young woman, of course. However, it almost appears as if the author is suggesting that the church should not accept someone who appears to have repented of his former behavior. We aren’t given any of the finer details. To make the story complete, he should have (if he hasn’t already) apologize and ask forgiveness of his former wife.

But the above quote that disturbs me as well. “Stealing others sheep?” Excuse me, but part of the mission of the SDA Church is to call God’s sheep out of Babylon. Nothing wrong with “tending the flock that we have,” but if we overemphasize that, we risk becoming like Israel of old, who cut off relations with the rest of the world to avoid “contamination.” “These ye ought to have done, and not to leave the other undone.” Matt. 23:23.

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This is a very sad story. Other than the Church should be a place of healing, there is nothing prescriptive that bloggers could rationally offer. The best one could do is to suggest that there is more than one community of Christians than Seventh. Day Adventists…Go where the Gospel is preached and sinners are accepted with Grace. Remember salvation is personal not corporate. personally I have found great peace in the Psalms and the great hymns of the church. Remember Christ was acquainted with grief. The Lords blessing is personal, he know even if a sparrow falls. A bruised reed He will not break. Tom Z

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Thanks, blc.

Your response seems blind to the core issue here, from the author’s perspective: She was physically and emotionally abused by her husband, and her church did not care for her or support her in her distress. Further, if he has repented, then why has he not repaired matters with his ex-wife?

All of her comments, then, are made in this sordid light, especially the last one: What right does a church have to take in more members if it is not adequately nurturing the ones already there?

In a denomination for which rising numbers are literally seen as the sign of divine favor, the question is ludicrous. But in the calculus of human misery, it is the only one that matters.

HA

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Few ever know what goes in inside each home, but many are quick to come to conclusions. Many the elder who piously prays in church service maynever know the abuse received from his hand in the home, rarely physical, but degrading verbal accusations. Then when the marriage is irrevocably broken (verbal abuse is not seen by the church as a reason for divorce), the blame is quickly assigned.

The church should stop meddling in human’s lives in this manner. When a marriage is irrevocably broken, separation and divorce is the only reasonable course for both spouses and the children. God will sort it out and He is far more
gracious than mere humans. All pastors should be qualified MFCC or else have one on staff. This training is much more important and practical than the knowledge of Hebrew and Greek–when will he ever be called on by parishioners to translate?

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People who recommend actions like that to deal with spousal abuse (domestic violence) should do society a favor by shutting up!
They have no clue what DV is, and they may end up being responsible for some killings that will happen as result of their ignorant suggestions.
Domestic Violence is a crime that, when started, will ALWAYS escalate and at the end there will always be “grave consequences.”

The best thing to do in cases of DV is to call the police and have law enforcement to deal with the crime.

There is a set of 11 lessons on relationships, FREE of any charge, that can be downloaded from my page and used to help prevent domestic violence and build better relationships, at
https://sites.google.com/site/drtichy/free-lessons-1

This material is not a substitute for treatment of spouse abuse or domestic violence. In cases of DV proper professional treatment has to be obtained from specialized professionals.

Also, related to CODEPENDENCY:

“I GOT FLOWERS TODAY”

got flowers today.
It wasn’t my birthday or any other special day.
We had our first argument last night.
And he said a lot of cruel things that really hurt me.
I know he is sorry and didn’t mean the things he said.
Because he sent me flowers today.

I got flowers today.
It wasn’t our anniversary or any other special day.*
Last night, he threw me into a wall and started to choke me.
It seemed like a nightmare.
I couldn’t believe it was real.
I woke up this morning sore and bruised all over.
I know he must be sorry.
Because he sent me flowers today.

I got flowers today.
And it wasn’t Mother’s or any other special day.
Last night, he beat me up again.
And it was much worse than all the other times.
If I leave him, what will I do?
How will I take care of my kids? What about money?
I’m afraid of him and scared to leave.
But I know he must be sorry.
Because he sent me flowers today.

I got flowers today.
Today was a very special day.
It was the day of my funeral.
Last night, he finally killed me.
He beat me to death.
If only I had gathered enough courage and strength to leave him.
I would not have gotten flowers today.

(Unkown)

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This is very sad story!
I suspected that there may be alot of information to this woman story that has been omitted. This is yet by virtue of what has been shared, this is another occasion where Adventism fails!
There is nothing wrong with accepting new believers, BUT in this case, was the church ’ tending the flock’ that they already have. There were so many aspects of this article that frustrated me, one such is -"he has officially joined the Adventist church by profession of faith, welcomed and loved and accepted wholly, while she was relegated to the outskirts, the fringes, the unworthy. How does a church welcomed and love others, and not extend the same welcome and love to their own? How does a church openly vilify a women at the hands of a man known abuse of power [spousal abuse]? DV is largely about power and control, and sadly there are many men whose overt or underlying’power and control issues’ are hidden behind skewed biblical beliefs of male headship and female submission.

The Adventist church has a long way to go to get their house in order- in my opinion. I agree with agele7, the church needs employed counselors, social workers, MFT on staff to responding to the congregational social and emotional needs, but Pastor need to do their job, and not the job of three or four other professionals. In this case, The man, and the woman needs specialized intervention.

I pray for this woman soul, that she will find healing and restoration with God.

I pray for the church congregation that have welcomed this man, that they will seek the holy spirit and minister to the man, so that he can re-address his issue, break this cycle of power and control, and seek forgiveness.


.

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It appears that abuse and narcissism are part of the same package. The narcissist is usually smart, personable, and manipulative. He plays the odds and knows what works to his advantage. It’s no surprise that he gets key people to rally around him for support. The church, for the most part, has just one goal - to stay the course at all costs; or, with non-members, get them into the tank.

This story plays over and over. The one I’m familiar with is cast with an SDA ordained pastor, out of a job for the moment, but with member support, will most likely have a tearful conversion, marry his “live-in”; pull out the old sermons; and be back in the saddle once more.

I believe it’s about the superficial way we engage with people.

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There are many tragic aspects to this story. And having experienced divorce twice during my time as an SDA, it is my observation that the church as a whole, simply doesn’t know how to deal with divorcing couples.

In my first divorce, it was I who decided to leave my wife. In my second, it was my wife who decided to leave me. In neither, was there any physical adultery by either party (at least, not prior to the separation.) However the church needs to understand that there are other forms of marital unfaithfulness, and sometimes the one who leaves is the courageous one.

Every divorce is complicated. And because the circumstances are personal, individuals divorcing shouldn’t have to explain and justify themselves to the church body. In the case of my first divorce I said very little to anybody in the church about the reasons I left my wife, as I had no desire whatever to damage her reputation in the church, or with her friends. All I could tell them is that the issues had persisted for most of the 18 years of our marriage, and that all efforts to work things out, including counselling, had produced no lasting results.

And a separation doesn’t have to be the fault of one person or the other. Sometimes relationships just don’t work out, in spite of both parties being good people, and genuinely trying to make it work.

Ironically in my second separation, even though many in the church felt I’d been hard done by (by my second wife), I still had precious little support from the church congregation. I come back to an earlier comment - I think the church just doesn’t know how to deal with people who are experiencing separation/divorce.

To a degree, I felt on both occasions that I was punished by the church for failing in my marriage. That may have been only my perception, but that is what I felt.

The only effective path in dealing with divorcing couples is to support both parties equally in a non-judgmental manner. This doesn’t mean we’re condoning wrong-doing. We may not even know whether any wrong-doing has taken place (and frankly, it’s better if we don’t know - that is between the individual and God.) The role of the church is to lift people up, not grind them into the ground.

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One of the issues exposed in this sad story is the faulty concept of church. Yes church is a place for worship. But who is the object of that worship? Is it not the One who invited all those who are tired and weary to come and find rest? Church then is the place for healing. Is there not a Scripture that says, before you come, go to the one you have offended and make things right? I am not suggesting that the two reunite, but that the aggressor make aments as best as possible. his violence must be acknowledged and fore given, then as separate individuals approach the Throne of Grace. While histories may differ, each one of us come with burdens too heavy to bear and have them lifted at the foot of the Cross. from that point the Christain walk begins–to love mercy, to do justly and to walk humbly with thy God. Tom Z

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  1. You are absolutely right, power and control is the center os the problem of people who abuse their spouses.

  2. The best “ministering” that the church could do to this man is asking him to attend a Domestic Violence diversion program, which is a group therapy treatment. In most States it’s a 52-week program, a 2-hours session weekly.

  3. Some people think that “a few sessions” with any counselor are sufficient. Far from the truth, it is not effective. Anger Management/Domestic Violence require specializes, long-term treatment. The one year programs have had the best results.

  4. Pastors are trained to be professional pastors. When they try to “treat” domestic violence they are completely out of their scope and actually making things worse since they don’t know what they are doing. They should refer people to proper treatment with specialized professionals.

  5. People should look for treatment when they start throwing aggressive words at their spouses. When they start throwing objects, getting treatment is a must. When they throw bullets it’s too late!

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I know people who have similar events in non-SdA congregations, and it is well documented in other religions as well.

It is a stunning indictment of religion in general that the active recognition and work on solving of this problem has largely been driven by the social services and health professions, and by survivors - and hindered by the head-in-the-sand conceal-the-evidence attitudes of denominations.

When admitting you are wrong is seen as a sign of weakness, organizations based on authority hide rather than fix their mistakes.

The SdA congregations of my personal experience have not been able to deal with teenager sexuality, adult or child abuse, homophobia, evolution, alcoholism, obesity, … for this simple reason.

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Andrews Seminary should have on all their curricula for future pastors courses in family therapy. Not to teach this is to make it of no importance. The church my grandaughter and parents attend had a full-time pastor who was also a licensed MFCC and was a boon to the congregation. All congregations of any size, other than the dying ones with elderly members, need such trained professionals on their staff. For those churches who feel other staff are more important, they should become acquainted with the Christian counselors in their city for referral and not attempt to practice family therapy without a license, as many pastors have tried and recommended prayer and Bible reading.

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I agree with the main features of this post. What impresses me also is that the feminists and certain others seem to revel in picturing the woman as the abused partner. While this may be true in many cases I have founds stats that show that 30 to 40% of men are subject to abuse. Don’t they count? Hardly, IMO, in the feminist oriented culture. I can’t recall having seen an account of abuse of a husband. It does happen.

Children are so often abused. Poor little kids who have no defense. Any one abused should be offered our succor. There is no place, whether church or society, where any type of abuse should be tolerated.
In The Grip of Truth

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The critical issue in Spousal abuse by either partner and or child or children is the reluctance to call the law. It is a crime. Now let the church act. I had an aunt who was abused. once she was kicked in the ankle an suffered for decades after. she just filed for divorce and her husband kept his state job. if she has called the police, he would have gotten another state job. Tom Z

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Hey Bevin, completely off topic, but do you have room for any more snow–like what’s coming tonight and tomorrow? :slight_smile: Good luck with it. Sounds like a good time to visit the folks back home where it’s still summer.

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Why can’t those pastors who are interested take courses in MFT in other schools? Why should every pastor have those courses? Yes, for personal consumption, it’s OK. But not to use in their work as pastors unless they are properly licensed. Otherwise they would be breaking the law, practicing with no license.

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Good question. Expecting about one foot. Fortunately by roof has the capacity, but I expect to have to shovel it off

Indeed, they do count. Most diversion programs have Court ordered groups for female perpetrators as well. I used to run a few women’s groups.

In my opinion both the man and the woman should attend group therapy, but the laws are still way too biased, targeting the perpetrators and offering nothing to the victims. The couple should never attend the same group though.

Maybe you don’t like it, but I agree with you on this particular subject!

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You are 100% right.
And I need 20 characters…

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