Why Do Some Christian Leaders Ignore Abuse?

The following is a link to an excellent article by Carolyn Custis James: http://www.whitbyforum.com/2013/06/this-can-of-worms-must-be-opened.html

Why Do Christian Leaders Cover-up Abuse?

Carolyn Custis James

In her post, “This Can of Worms Must Be Opened,” James says:

“We get all worked up (as well we should) about bullying that takes place among school children. But are we as outraged about the bullying that is inflicted under the guise of spirituality by Christian leaders within our ranks?”

James, the first female graduate of Dallas Seminary, references recent public statements by Christian leaders who support C.J. Mahaney (Together for the Gospel and The Gospel Coalition) in the midst of sexual abuse allegations against Mahaney’s Sovereign Grace Ministries (SGM) churches. Mahaney is accused of covering up some of the abuse. James notes:

“Some of the patterns I’m observing are:

  • Exploitation of the power disparity between the abuser and the abused
  • The use of scripture or spiritual platitudes to manipulate, control, silence, and shame
  • Demanding unquestioned loyalty
  • Misperceptions of female submission and godliness exacerbate the problem
  • Dismissal of legitimate concerns
  • Blaming the abused for what someone else (often the abuser) has done
  • An environment where simply speaking up or voicing a point of disagreement causes disapproval and possible dismissal
  • The impact of abuse intensifies if a person has experienced abuse in the past”

I encourage you to read the rest of James’s well-written post.

What do you think? Do churches today misunderstand the role of grace and forgiveness? Do victims need to work within the church to address abuse issues, trusting that their spiritual leaders will do what is right? What is the role of spiritual shepherds, and what is the role of civil authorities? And what do you think of public statements of support by well-known evangelical leaders for another Christian leader accused of covering-up sexual abuse in a church–while the criminal investigation continues? What is the role of a friend in a matter like this? These are questions that many evangelical leaders seem to be wrestling with–or not–as the case may be.

Note: Look for a future post here about the “Don’t Talk Rule,” a technique often applied by abusers to victims of spiritual and sexual abuse.

6 comments on “Why Do Some Christian Leaders Ignore Abuse?

  1. This. Is excellent.
    Thanks for the good work you do in this area. Appreciated and needed!

    • Thanks Rebecca. I’m glad to see this issue come up in more mainstream blogs now. Sometimes we feel like voices in the wilderness. It’s important that the rank and file of evangelicalism acknowledge that there is a problem and that it’s not okay. I’m so happy that Carolyn spoke up about this.

  2. Thought provoking article for those who are not aware or are in denial. Thank you for educating the public and for bringing out this serious and most dangerous issue. I was involved with two churches that were very controlling and had me believing that the end of the world was coming upon us and they were the chosen church. Also, I was being abused by my husband and the minister’s wife asked me what I was doing to make him treat me that way. Little did I know that they were mandated reporters and my husband should have been arrested. I’m leaving out details of what my experience was in my home. Thank you for all you do bringing the issues of Church Abuse out.

    • Dear Dawn ones,

      I am so sorry to hear about your past experiences of being abused. That grieves God’s heart. As you and I both know, such abuse is more common than most people want to admit. It is stories like yours that remind me to press on in presenting these issues, since folks are continually stumbling upon this blog–and others–and learning that they are not alone.

      Blessings, Steve

  3. I think this is great. I am happy to find this article. I have seen a few people in prayer counseling who suffered from abuse and they were told to just forgive, do not take offense, pretend it did not happen, be quiet, turn the other cheek, pray “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.” The end result is the person being abused is not loved, cared for, healed, or protected. It’s not only ignored sometimes when leaders do it, it can be ignored in marriages too. Spousal abuse happens in the church. I think we need to let people know God takes care of the eternal consequences for sin, we still sometimes have to deal with the earthly consequences of sin. There needs to be some accountability somewhere for actions instead of-“Jesus forgave you so please go hurt more people.” God hates abuse and we (the church) need to have a greater understanding of His heart.

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