Archive for January, 2015

So very true!

I often wish I had pulled boxes off the shelves right out in public so that people would know that something was terribly wrong. I even thought at times how great it would be to stand up right in the middle of a sermon and challenge the pastor for the way that I was being treated.

“When abuse occurs the rules change.” I should have followed the new rules!

A Cry For Justice

‘When the line has been crossed over into real abuse, the rules change and do a 180.’

I learned that from a child abduction and security expert when he was on a talk show.  The situation that security expert gave as an example was (paraphrasing): “We teach our children to be behaved and polite in public.  This is a good thing when they are with loving, safe, and protective adults.  If they’ve been abducted, or are in any danger, teach them the rules completely change.  If they are even brought to a grocery store, then start pulling boxes off the shelves and making a mess. . .anything to bring attention from other adults who could help.”

This is a simple, simple proviso for victims of abuse, and all pastors and counselors should be taught it.  It is also something all kindergartners should be taught. [comment posted on our Facebook by…

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I think the senior pastor of my former church hangs his hat on Psalm 54:1.

In all the years that my husband and I attended, we never heard him suggest to the people in the pews that they might possibly consider going to someone they had hurt, offended, or (ahem) sinned against and apologize, let alone ask for forgiveness.

Not that he never talked about forgiveness – to be sure, he spoke of it in many a sermon and sometimes it was even part of the “liturgy” of the service: “Let us now bow our heads and take a moment to silently confess our sins to God.”

And that was it. To God. And God alone.

Every once in a while, he would make mention of the benefits of confessing our sins to “one another” – meaning that we should find someone of spiritual stature greater than our own to whom we could confess our deep, dark, sinful secrets. At one point several years ago, there was even a movement to schedule a time for a small group of elders to come to people’s homes and hear them confess their sins.

I remember distinctly one of the women on the women’s ministry worship team, of which I was a member, sharing her experience with this. A couple of elders had come to her home and she had confessed some very intimate sins to them. They apparently went through whatever training they had received in praying for her and declaring to her that she was forgiven by God and then they left. Later, whenever she would see these elders in church or around town, they almost completely ignored her and she found this very disconcerting. She told me that she had expected that they would continue to “check in” with her – even if just in passing – to see how she was doing. Instead, their evasion made her feel that she was now being judged negatively by them. Granted, when someone has been forgiven, it would stand to reason that the matter be dropped, but she was expecting something more. It was as though the act of confession had created a sort of bond in her mind between herself and the elders, but instead, their behavior toward her made her feel judged and unacceptable.

One of the firm convictions I have always held is that the senior pastor and the other leaders under his authority who spiritually abused me owed me not only an apology, but also should ask for my forgiveness for the damage they did in judging, ostracizing, and persecuting me. I reiterated this belief many times over the years in writing to the senior pastor. Never did I receive a response to my request by him or anyone else and so I wondered if he/they believed that they had not done anything to abuse me or wound me – nothing that would be considered a “sin”?

I do believe they felt entirely justified in the way that they treated me, but I also believe that even if at any time any of them – and especially the senior pastor – ever thought that perhaps I had been treated wrongly, there would be absolutely no reason to ever come to me, confess their sin to me, or to ask for my forgiveness. “Against God only” was a sin committed, the senior pastor would reason to himself, and so to God only would he need to ask forgiveness.

Early on, when I asked for someone in leadership to carry out the second step of Matthew 18 with me (and it all went terribly wrong and I became the problem for pointing out the problem), the senior pastor made a statement to me that should have been a warning about what the future would hold.

In reference to the staff person about whom I had expressed concern, the senior pastor said, “He will probably never forgive you.”

At the time, I thought the senior pastor had to be wrong. We were Christians, after all, and forgiveness is in our DNA – being children of God, heirs with Jesus, right? And I thought it would all blow over with time.

Looking back, I see that the senior pastor’s acceptance and apparent agreement with a staff person’s unwillingness or inability to forgive was a huge warning sign in and of itself.

Think about it.

A church where it’s okay for people in leadership – staff, no less – to refuse to forgive.

Yet, at the same time, I was made to feel that I could never apologize enough, could never ask for forgiveness enough, could never repent and show that I was changed – that I had become “good” enough.

And not that I had done anything wrong, anyway. I was following biblical protocol. Nothing wrong with that.

But even so, because I was made to feel that I had done some sin so heinous that it couldn’t even be spoken of, I even went so far as to apologize for any hurt I might possibly have caused and I personally asked the worship leader, the senior pastor, and the person who had been assigned to deal with my request for help in doing that Matthew 18 process, for forgiveness for anything I may have done wrong.

(Keep in mind that I had no idea what I may have done wrong – no one would tell me. But, even so, I was willing to accept that I am imperfect and may have been perceived to have had hurtful intentions, so I wanted to do all that I could to make things “right” by apologizing and asking for forgiveness from the people whom I assumed I had wronged.)

Because I continued to apologize repeatedly over the years, without even a hint of forgiveness being bestowed, I spiraled down, down, down, into believing that if my pastor and other leadership in the church could not forgive me, I must be a terrible person. Over time, when God didn’t intervene – when He didn’t work everything together for good by bringing healing to the situation – I began to believe that if I wasn’t good enough for the leadership to forgive me, nor for God to step in, I must not be wanted by God Himself.

This is the epitome of spiritual abuse. Being treated in such a way that my relationship with God was called into question.

I’m sure to this very day, the senior pastor and other leadership – even my (former) “friends” at the church, continue to believe that they did nothing wrong. That I deserved everything I got. If they had any qualms about their behavior, their treatment of me, I believe they would be knocking on my door and attempting to make amends.

Hiding behind “against You (God) only have I sinned” and keeping apologies and requests for forgiveness between them and God is a cop out and ultimately indicates that they don’t truly believe. True believers may not be perfect, but they try. They may not do it perfectly, but they try.

I tried so hard it almost killed my relationship with God.

I guess they can’t kill theirs because it doesn’t really exist.

I know a man who once worked for a major Christian Publisher. He had gone to their school to train as a missionary, but when it was almost time for he and his wife to leave for the mission field, the leadership requested that he stay and teach in the school.

After several years, this particular school/publishing company decided to practice what they preach and so they brought in a company to test and interview everyone in the organization. They also looked at the structure and needs in the school and the publishing areas. As part of the deal, they committed to honoring all of the changes this company would indicate – everyone was to be on board with any changes that took place. The company came in, did their interviews and tests, and then made recommendations on how people could be reassigned in their positions so that they were using their skills and giftings to best serve the publishing business and the school.

Lo and behold! My friend became managing editor of the publishing company – one of the top positions in the publishing side of the organization. Suddenly, based on his gifts and abilities, he was in a position well-suited to him, as was the case for the entire staff.

So, I am wondering why our churches don’t do the same thing? In fact, several years ago, spiritual gifts classes and “surveys” made a big resurgence – probably based on the book that Willow Creek in Chicago was promoting at that time – and hundreds of people took the spiritual gifts class at our (former) church. Folks who took the class were told that they would then be given a list of areas that would be suited best for them to serve.

(I, of course, was not allowed to attend the final class in which I would be told how I could serve because I was not going to be allowed to serve under the male music director. When I requested to know why, I was told they couldn’t share that information with me. Spiritual abuse at its finest.)

The problem was that no one ever carried through. Hundreds took the class and “discovered” their spiritual gifts. But when it came time to organize the teachers and leaders for various ministries, it was back to the same old popularity contests – based on who had the most money, lived in the right neighborhood, had the right job (often coaches in sports at the local college and high school because this community puts a high priority on sports), the right last name, or wrote nice sized checks.

During those few years of focusing on spiritual gifts, I was involved in the worship team for the women’s ministry. The women’s ministry had various teachers who would speak each week to the large group, and then there were several small group leaders who led groups for discussion and more in-depth study. The small group leaders were not selected based on their gifts and abilities, but on their position in society. So after a very few weeks, what had been well over a hundred women attending, dropped back to only 50-60. (I know those numbers may sound large, but this is a church of over 2500, so 50-60 was a paltry sum.)

The leadership went into a tail-spin. What was wrong with these women who weren’t committed to attending? Because, of course, it wasn’t the leadership that was the problem. It was the women who weren’t committed enough to keep coming who weren’t spiritual enough. The solution devised by the leadership was not to discontinue the positions of those small group leaders who had lost their members, but instead was to combine some of the small discussion groups and give them two leaders (because we can’t tell a high-society “leader” that they aren’t leadership material). As I sat in a worship team meeting, the leader of our group – who served on the leadership committee – mentioned what was happening and so I asked, “How are the small group leaders selected?”

She replied that the leadership committee just asks women they want to be leaders. “Why aren’t they looking at the spiritual gifts results and making sure the women they are asking are gifted to be small group leaders and teachers?” I asked.

The leader of our group looked at me with a stunned and not-so-happy expression. How dare I question the leadership in the first place and how dare I suggest something they hadn’t even considered even though it was supposed to be church policy? Though she didn’t say those words to me, that was the expression on her face and the message of her body language. It became apparent over time asking questions like this was tantamount to treason. Do not question leadership. Even if you are pointing out the obvious.

So, let me ask you: Who has the Power in Your (Former – if that applies) Church?

Who serves as elders and deacons? Who teaches Sunday School classes? Who is the treasurer and handles the money? Who makes the decisions?

In my experience, the people with the power are, first and foremost, the people with the right last name, the right pedigree, who live in the right neighborhood, have the right job, make the most money, and drop plenty of it into the offering plate, and often they are those whose family has been in power in the church for generations.

In the smaller churches that I have attended, worked for, or am familiar with, there are usually two or three families whom everyone knows ultimately have control of the church, either by their pocketbook, or by their social status, or by their generational longevity in the church. These are the people who sit on the boards and committees, and get upset if decisions are made that they don’t suggest or agree with. I have heard of people throwing tantrums and I myself have been verbally accosted and physically threatened.

Oftentimes, churches don’t honor the spiritual giftings and abilities of the people in their church because they want people of prominence in those positions. And the people of prominence want the positions, as well, whether they are the best person for the job or not.

Take for example the worship team or solos with the choir. These may or may not be people suited for leading worship (it takes more than a pretty voice), but they want to be on the platform and center stage. And rather than use their own God-given gifts and abilities to the glory of God, they usurp the gifts and abilities that they (and others) deem as the most desireable. Being on that platform, performing like a rock star, is a big one. Often, they are allowed to do this because they are part of the powerful lineage of the church and are considered so valuable that they must be allowed to do whatever they wish.

If a newcomer arrives who has obvious giftings, they will often be resented, especially if the new persons talents outweigh that of the person of power. This new person will suffer complaints, questions, backbiting, griping, and gossip because they are lower on the food chain. They will be resented because they aren’t “as good” as the person with power, yet they have better skills in that desired area.

Wouldn’t it be interesting if churches would make a point of only putting people in positions in which they are truly gifted? We often spout that we are all part of the body of Christ and we all are needed to do what God has called and equipped us to do. But, at least in my experience, this is all lip-service and doesn’t actually happen because there is too much cow-towing to the people of power.

Well said.

john pavlovitz


If there’s anything spoiled, entitled Christians love to do, it’s tell other Christians how to feel and react, (well that, and be outraged at how they feel and react).  

Like the self-appointed cool kids in high school; deciding who makes the rules, who gets a voice, and who gets their books knocked to the ground in the hallway; they stand armed with computers and Scripture sound bites, always at the ready to shut down dissent and crush opposition whenever it begins to grow—in the name of Jesus.

They’re used to having the run of the campus, and they’ll use all sorts of tactics to keep it.

The bullies always will.

The truest thing about power, is that those with it are always most resistant to it ever changing hands. If the status quo has you on top of the mountain, you’ll fight like hell to hold that holy ground.

Whenever any corrupt…

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I am sure that if you were to ask people at our former church what I could have done differently, one of the top responses would be that I should have kept my mouth shut. Now, they might frame this statement with a bit more Christianese like, “Ellen should have accepted the leadership that God placed over her and done her best to serve and honor the Lord by using her gifts to support and bless the ministry of the people in authority.”

Yep, basically that’s saying that I was wrong because I spoke up and pointed out concerns rather than sucking it up and doing my best to make leadership look good no matter how many people were being hurt in the process.

I did have one woman who served as my mentor for several months who asked me, “Do you wish that you had not said anything?” The meaning behind her question was that if I had just kept quiet I would never have been spiritually abused. Asking questions, stating concerns, having an opinion that was not supportive of decisions made by the leadership were all things that were wrong in the eyes of many in the church.

But I don’t think that speaking up and pointing out the problem (over a period of approximately fifteen years) was where I went wrong. I did a lot of stupid things, but speaking up wasn’t one of them. Here are the stupid things that I did at our former church:

1) I trusted the senior pastor. I thought he was a man of integrity. I believed that the man on the platform actually believed and tried to live out what he preached. I thought that he would be honest, that he would value transparency, that he cared about people, that he would champion those who were being treated harshly, that he would demonstrate a more excellent way. I was stupid to trust him.

2) I played by the rules. I tried to follow biblically sound principles for dealing with conflict. And when others didn’t follow those principles, I continued to follow the principles of forgiveness, grace, long-suffering, patience, etc. I was stupid to do that.

3) I trusted a few members of leadership (besides the senior pastor) to have integrity and to follow sound biblical principles. I was stupid to expect that.

4) I believed that God wanted everything to work together for good – meaning that it would all work out in the end. I believed that in the end, the pastor and other leadership would come to their senses, see how the way that they had treated me had been devastatingly wounding, and that they would make every effort to bring about a God-honoring conclusion. I envisioned graciousness, forgiveness, unconditional love, and a clear demonstration of the tenets of our faith would be displayed as disagreements and hurts were healed. I was stupid to believe that.

5) I believed that the leadership, too, wanted everything to work together for good. I believed that the senior pastor especially wanted to work just as hard as I to seek a God-honoring conclusion of reparation and restoration. Stupid.

6) I believed I had friends at the church who would stand up for me. I believed that they would speak up on my behalf and that they would not stand for the ostracism that I had endured (had they known about it). I believed that they would not stand for us being tossed out of the church. But I was wrong. No one stood up for us. I was stupid to think that they would.

7) I believed that I was not worthy of receiving the pastor’s time and attention in order to resolve what was happening. For many years, the abuse had made me so afraid and so broken that I couldn’t bring myself to challenge the pastor face-to-face about the treatment that I had received. The few moments that he would pause and speak to me were so surprising that I never had the presence of mind to garner the courage to confront him in those public settings. I was stupid not to boldly approach him in public and demand explanations and apologies.

8) I believed that I had time. I believed that as I became stronger and experienced healing through counseling, through sharing my story with a few trusted “friends” and family, that I was moving ever closer to the moment when I would have the strength to fully engage the pastor and other leadership with the reality of the consequences of their abusive treatment. But it was when they saw my strength was growing that they had to get rid of me. I was stupid to think that they were ready to face their sin just because I was ready to confront them with it.

Perhaps you are thinking that trusting the pastor and leadership, believing that God would work everything together, having patience and being transparent are all noble and good qualities and not stupid at all. The thing is, to trust the untrustworthy – when they have proven themselves untrustworthy for years – that’s pretty stupid. To stick with people who consistently abused me for a significant number of years without a whit of remorse – that’s pretty stupid. To think that God would work it out so that I would stay in that situation with the potential to suffer abuse repeatedly – not too smart.

I just hope that others who read my story and follow my journey on this blog learn from my mistakes.

Several years ago, my friend, Dorothy, was a member of a church in which the pastor stalked, bullied, shamed, and publicly preached about her. She left that church a long time ago, but the pastor is still there. A few months ago, I had lunch with a woman who had recently stopped attending that same church saying that the pastor was “too controlling.” She told me about the many people who had come and gone in the short time that she and her husband had attended there. It was obvious that people were drawn in easily but that the pastor’s abusiveness drove them away almost as quickly. This church has a revolving door.

So, while he is still the pastor there twenty-something years later, I would not say that he is “getting away with” his abusive behavior because there is a revolving door of members and attenders. People who come there are drawn in by his charisma but whether it be a short time or a long time, they eventually recognize his abusiveness and they don’t hang around. That’s not “getting away with” it – that’s surviving it.

He and many other pastors could take a lesson from the pastor of my former church because he has mastered the art of abusing people and getting away with it. It’s really very simple. Let me explain.

All you have to do to get away with abusing people is to master the art of making other people think it was their idea. Our former pastor was masterful in leading people whatever direction he wanted to go, abusive or not, but they would absolutely believe they were the incredibly wise and God-inspired person who came up with the vision, solution, or answer on their own.

When this pastor first came to the church, he would wine and dine (tea and cookie) the elderly and aging members – drinking tea with little old ladies in their retirement homes and expressing his concern that the church would be losing her young people. “What can the church do to keep your grandchildren interested and attending? They don’t like the same music, dress the same way, or have the same interests. The world has and is changing so quickly and how can the church ever compete? What would keep your grandchildren coming to church?”

And all the while, the unassuming grandma and grandpa would think they were advising this new, young pastor. “Why of course, Pastor Elliott, my grandchildren mean the world to me and, of course, I would do anything to keep them interested in coming to church. Since they like newer music, maybe we should have a service where they can sing the songs they like. Maybe we can let them dress more casually. Maybe we should even step aside from the leadership positions we hold and let some younger adults take the lead and make the decisions. After all, they have a better understanding of what our young people want and need to stay in the church.”

Our first several years in the church, there were congregational meetings in which the pastor would present the “challenges” the church was facing but without a concrete solution. Yet, the challenges themselves were framed in such a way that they indicated the most obvious solutions. So people would look at the challenges and offer the solution the pastor was looking for – and all the while they would think that they had made the decision, when, in fact, they were being led down a pre-determined path. The pastor would then have all of the support he needed to carry out the people’s decision – whether financial or organizational.

Over the years, a subtle transition began to take place. Whenever there was a congregational vote on what could be a controversial topic, the senior pastor would be out of town and his inner-circle of elders and deacons would be on hand to answer questions. Only no one wanted to question them. They wanted to know what the pastor thought, but since he was conveniently unavailable, their questions would go unasked and unanswered.

As the years went by, and the church grew into a mega-church, the people came to trust the pastor more and more to the point that they no longer had an elder board that contributed to decision making. The governance of the church was completely altered so that only the senior pastor and a very small number of high-level staff and a couple of hand-picked lay people were on the “executive team” and that team holds all of the power in the church. Congregational meetings aren’t even held any more and there is some speculation that even the voting that takes for elders and deacons (see my post on what elders and deacons do) is a sham.

To give the appearance that the elders were involved in decision making, there would be regular occasions in which the congregation was told that elders would be available in a room near the church cafe/coffee bar to answer questions. My husband spent nearly every Sunday for fifteen years volunteering from 7 AM to noon at that coffee bar and people would come by asking where the elders were. He rarely saw them. And the pastor was never one of those who would show up to talk to people and answer their questions or speak to their concerns. Only a hand full of people ever stopped in to ask a question and even then, the elders usually had not shown up, so there was no one there with whom they could have a conversation anyway.

People who had legitimate concerns that called in to question a decision or practice that the senior pastor and his inner circle had made or were supporting (you can read about my particular situation in part 3 of my story) were farmed out to lay leadership to deal with. In my story, those who were assigned to deal with me had never had a conversation with me until they each, in turn over the years, told me that I was not allowed to serve, particpate, attend, etc., but would not and could not tell me what I had done to cause this punishment.

It wasn’t until we were tossed out of the church that we learned that the senior pastor had been sharing confidential information in which I questioned first a staff persons’ behavior, and after the first abusive treatment I received, all of the other communications I had made with the senior pastor regarding the growing abusive treatment I was enduring at the hands of his staff and leadership.

Once again, it became obvious that the senior pastor had shared those communications with his staff and leadership in order to lead them to the conclusion that I deserved to be ostracized. And since they were the ones to reach that conclusion, he then encouraged them to carry out the “solution” by conveying the verdict. When I would go to the senior pastor for help and support, he would avoid and ignore my pleas, but when in public where others could see, he would smile, wave, greet, and be extremely friendly. This sent the message to anyone watching that he and I were on splendid terms and that he in no way had any negativity toward me whatsoever.

I doubt that those who were assigned to carry out the spiritual abuse I received realized that their actions were unbiblical and abusive – but that didn’t matter. As long as they dealt with the person who was asking questions or pointing out a problem in such a way as to stifle them, mute them, spiritually castrate them, and hog-tie them, it was fine by the senior pastor. In fact, he was counting on the underlings’ ineptness, inexperience, and lack of biblical knowledge so that when their handling of these situations led to abusive treatment, they could be excused. After all, they were young, growing and learning, and therefore, their mishandling and mistakes should be overlooked, and forgiven.

But never, ever was there to be an apology. Never, ever was there to be an admission of wrong-doing. Never, ever was there to be a point where the senior pastor would step in and assist in making reparations. Instead, while his staff and leadership were spiritually brutalizing people (I now know I was not the only one), the senior pastor would be pretending that he had no idea that anything was amiss. The two or three times that I had an opportunity to ask if he had gotten my emails, he would say to me, “I just don’t understand what you are saying” as though the concept of someone treating me so horrendously was simply mind-boggling to him. And, of course, those conversations were so brief and on-the-fly, as well as startling, that I was often simply rendered mute and couldn’t bring myself to question him further.

Once, when I did gather enough courage to ask why I was being ostracized, his exact words were, “I don’t make all of the decisions around here.”

And that’s the key.

If pastors want to spiritually abuse people and get away with it, they need to master the art of manipulating others into doing the dirty work for him or her. Lead them with such intentionality that they are honored that their opinions and wisdom are welcomed and necessary to the church’s success and then allow them to carry out their own suggestions.

In the mean time, pastors, you need to be as kind, caring, smiling, positive, naive, and winsome as possible. Pretend you not only know nothing, but that you are so naive that you couldn’t possible entertain the thought that someone else would treat people so shamefully. And when the abused ask for your help, make sure you are too busy to sit down with them and have a conversation. If they press you, tell them you just don’t understand what they are wanting or trying to tell you. And, no matter what, don’t ever undermine the authority that those you have in leadership have been given to carry out their decisions in whatever way they deem most appropriate. After all, “You don’t make all the decisions around here.”

Once in a while, I get this question. It’s not so different from years ago when I asked my mother the same thing.

My father died of colon cancer when I was three years old. My mother rarely spoke of him except to say that his death was the best thing that could have happened to us – his four children. Back in those days, you didn’t challenge or question adults, so I would listen to her comment and wonder what she meant. Was it because he was so ill or so maimed by his disease (he lost most of his intestines and wore a colostomy bag) that it would have been difficult for us? That was my assumption.

Then, when I was about twenty years old, my sister, who had taken an interest in geneology, was filling out a book that had a page for each parent and grandparent – stories about their lives, interests, etc. Since my father wasn’t there to give her information, she was asking our mother about him. Mom refused to answer and my sister kept badgering her. “Why wont’ you tell me anything?!?”

Finally, in frustration, my mother blurted out, “Because he abused me! And he abused you kids! Mostly your brother, but he was mean to all of us!”

And it all came tumbling out. How he knew how to inflict pain without leaving marks – mostly by wrenching her arm up behind her back. How he beat my brother almost daily and often made him ride in the trunk of the car. How she would have to sweep the driveway with a broom if a neighbor or salesman came by while our father was at work because if he saw the tire tracks, he would accuse her of affairs and hurt her.

“Why did you stay?” I asked.

And her answer was all about her hopes and her values. She valued marriage. She valued family. She valued our father. She valued the opinions of the community. She hoped that with enough time, with enough love, with enough forgiveness, with enough trying, he would one day trust her, believe her. Change.

“Why did you stay?” they ask me when they read my story or when I share it over coffee.

My answer, like my mother’s, is all about my hopes and my values.

I value my faith. I value grace and forgiveness, reconciliation and restoration. I value patience and kindness, goodness and faithfulness. I value commitment and loyalty. I value unconditional love and faithfulness. I value truth and honesty.

I hoped that what I believe would actually come about, that God would work everything together for good because I love Him. I hoped that with enough time, with enough love, with enough forgiveness, with enough trying, one day things would . . . change.

It wasn’t until after we were tossed out that I realized that my hopes and my values were not shared by the leadership of the church – nor even those who had called themselves my friends.

They had no interest in grace or forgiveness. They had no interest in reconciliation or restoration. They had not been truthful or honest, kind or good. They had no sense of commitment or loyalty to me.

I came to realize that no amount of time, no amount of love or forgiveness or trying on my part was ever going to bring about any kind of change in their opinion or actions toward me. Because they don’t value those things – at least not for me or even people like me (because now I know I have not been the only one). They were not interested in changing their position toward me, the ostracism, the judgment, the punishment, the shunning.

They did not – nor do they still or they would have taken appropriate steps to reach out to me and my family – share my faith. A faith that allows God to work everything together for good. Because that promise is only to “those who love Him.”

The pastor even acknowledged to my husband that I was the only one who had tried – in all of those years – to rectify the situation, to extend grace and work toward healing. Today, I see that as his admission that he and all of the other leadership who contributed to my spiritual abuse, that they do not truly believe.

In the end, God has worked everything together for good for us by removing us from that abusive situation. But I am convinced that if the pastors and leadership had the same values that I have, the same hope that I have, the same faith that I have, the God-honoring outcome would have been a testament to His amazing love and grace.