In 2006 my DVD Women in Ministry Silenced or Set Free came out and since that time I have seen my share of scarecrows who are intent on destroying the message of women in ministry. One such scarecrow refuses to go away and it is time to create a blog post where others who have been hurt by the issue of women in ministry can share their pain. If you are a woman in ministry or a woman teacher and you have been hurt, abused or silenced and you would like to share a short story, this is the post for you to share with us. I will moderate the comments so that any scarecrow/troll who would like to sound off against women in ministry will either have their comments moderated or removed. This is a safe place where others who are like minded can encourage you as there are many who come to this community of loving Christians who value the worth and ministry of women.
The reason I named this post Stubble, Straw and Scarecrows is because those who are vehemently opposed to women’s gifts used for the common good are planting chaff and their words are nothing more than stubble and straw. Stubble, straw, and scarecrows are not God’s tools nor are they things to be afraid of. We are to fear God and allow Him to decide what gifts we receive for the fact is that the gift we receive from God comes with His permission to use His gift for God’s glory and the common good (1 Peter 4:11). No man can give us spiritual gifts and no man may kill God’s gifts within us. We are accountable to God and we must be faithful with what God has given us rather than holding back because of the fear of man.
Last year I blogged about Dr. Barb Orlowski’s research on spiritual abuse. Barb contacted me during a time when I was going through a very difficult period in my own life, and she was very helpful to me in both her active listening and in her own decision to contact the District church leaders that she knew personally to act on our behalf. Her intervention resulted in an investigation that dealt with the abusive situation. While the cause of the abuse was ultimately removed, I had to privately go through my own grief and deep sorrow. I was raised as a preacher’s kid and had always seen the church as a place of safety. As a result of the spiritual abuse, the idea of the church as a safe place was no longer that same place of safety to me. Time does a great job of helping us heal, but I am not yet sure when I will come full circle and be back to where I started. Spiritual abuse is that devastating. I have never made any of the details public although I am currently working on a DVD project that is a result of the things I have learned as a direct result of the abusive situation I endured. God certainly is able to work all things out for good to them that love Him and are called according to His purpose. What seemed like evil to us can and will be used for good by God who holds us in His hands. …
Can complementarianism ever be considered spiritual abuse? Before we can discuss this, we need to know what spiritual abuse is. David Johnson and Jeff VanVonderen have written a definition in The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse.
Spiritual abuse is the mistreatment of a person who is in need of help, support or greater spiritual empowerment, with the result of weakening, undermining or decreasing that person’s spiritual empowerment (pg 20)
Spiritual authority can become spiritual abuse when leadership places a value on a “doctrine” (especially a secondary doctrine) over and above the value of the member of the body of Christ. Johnson and VanVonderen identify how subtle a matter of authority can become spiritual abuse.
It’s possible to become so determined to defend a spiritual place of authority, a doctrine or a way of doing things that you wound and abuse anyone who questions, or disagrees, or doesn’t “behave” spiritually the way you want them to. (pg 23)
The following is a very eye opening article by Lee Grady. From Fire in My Bones online, November, 2009. Copyright 2009 Strang Communications; all rights reserved. Used with permission.
Christian teaching on male headship is often used as a weapon against women. This abuse must be confronted.
Last week during a ministry trip to Hungary I heard a painfully familiar story. Through a translator, a tearful young woman living near Budapest explained that her Christian husband was angrily demanding her absolute submission. This included, among other things, that she clean their house according to his strict standards and that she engage in sexual acts with him that made her feel uncomfortable and dirty. …
John Piper: “What should a wife’s submission to her husband look like if he’s an abuser?”
On August 19, 2009, John Piper tackles a question on an abusive husband, and Piper’s answer directs women on how they should take abuse from their husbands. The answer is typical of a complementarian who sees the husband as king and priest and the wife as the follower of her priest-king.
My comments will be below the transcript. I recommend you listen carefully to what Piper says. I think there is a lot to discuss especially his Freudian slip calling the husband “lord.” An edited transcript of the audio is below. …
For those of you who are experiencing church abuse or know of someone who has experienced abuse from a church leader, Dr. Barb Orlowski has her book online at churchexiters.com for only a little while longer. Barb is now working on the final stages of publishing her dissertation and so anyone interested in her research and work on ministering restoration to those who have been hurt by churches, or abusive and authoritarian leaders may want to view her material now before her book is removed from the internet.
The picture above represents not only the “bride” of Christ held back and controlled, but women in the “bride” of Christ held back and controlled. It is a great concern to me that there are many in the body who think that authoritarian control is needed to keep people in line and to keep the unity of the faith. But is the removal of the ability to question those in leadership or to question secondary doctrine a necessary thing to keep the unity of the faith? Some apparently believe that questionable tactics are allowed if the end result is unity but I would like to propose that unity based on an abuse of authority produces artificial unity.
Wade Burleson has been doing a series of posts on authoritarian control in the church and within non-profit groups and I believe that this issue is a major problem in the church today. Those who use intimidation tactics to prevent people from asking legitimate questions have risen up in our churches at an alarming rate. Where is this all coming from? There appears to be an emphases in many seminaries that sways impressionable young graduates to the belief that pastoral authority must be defended at all costs. Wade Burleson comments on the results of such teaching that creates an elite group of “the Lord’s anointed”. While Wade’s commentsare specifically about the Southern Baptist Convention, the application can be made throughout all denominations. …
The issue of women in ministry allows us to the opportunity to ask questions about the hard passages of scripture and to work through these passages to discover God’s intended meaning through the inspired context. But in many quarters, questioning is a “sin” that will get a reprimand from a strong authoritarian leader. Is it really a sin to ask questions? The New York Times has produced an article by Molly Worthen called Who Would Jesus Smack Down? In a surprising view of “the cussing pastor”, Mark Driscoll is not only against women pastors and what is called the feminization of the church, but he also refuses to tolerate any opposition to his views. In The New York Times article Molly Worthen writes:
Nowhere is the connection between Driscoll’s hypermasculinity and his Calvinist theology clearer than in his refusal to tolerate opposition at Mars Hill. The Reformed tradition’s resistance to compromise and emphasis on the purity of the worshipping community has always contained the seeds of authoritarianism: John Calvin had heretics burned at the stake and made a man who casually criticized him at a dinner party march through the streets of Geneva, kneeling at every intersection to beg forgiveness. Mars Hill is not 16th-century Geneva, but Driscoll has little patience for dissent. In 2007, two elders protested a plan to reorganize the church that, according to critics, consolidated power in the hands of Driscoll and his closest aides. Driscoll told the congregation that he asked advice on how to handle stubborn subordinates from a “mixed martial artist and Ultimate Fighter, good guy” who attends Mars Hill. “His answer was brilliant,” Driscoll reported. “He said, ‘I break their nose.’ ” When one of the renegade elders refused to repent, the church leadership ordered members to shun him. One member complained on an online message board and instantly found his membership privileges suspended. “They are sinning through questioning,” Driscoll preached. John Calvin couldn’t have said it better himself.
Recently I was contacted by Dr. Barb Orlowski who has compiled her research on spiritual abuse into a manuscript that will form the basis of a yet unpublished book called “Ministering Restoration: Recovering Spiritual Harmony”. Dr. Orlowski wrote to me because she is interested in the issue of women in ministry as it was part of her study on spiritual abuse by authoritarian and abusive leadership in the church. In her on-line book in chapter three “What does the Bible say?” she lists the inherent weakness of the hierarchical/authoritarian model of leadership. These models can be used as a way to abuse the flock if the leadership demonstrates power driven or controlling tendencies. Barb writes:
Hierarchical and Authoritarian leadership can often slip into abusive patterns. What appears to be a reasonable system of church governance can often get molded instead to suit the designs of certain types of leaders. Unfortunately, these leaders distort church authority in ways that eventually misrepresent biblical principles for church governance. Leadership then becomes a command and control style which slowly erodes the effectiveness of that church body and leaves those under that regime dependent and immature in their Christian lives.
One of the ways that these leaders become abusive, according to Dr. Orlowski, is by not allowing others to participate and these “authorities overstep their bounds and use their position of leadership to mistreat those under their care”. …