What Happens When You Divorce Grace and Truth


Yesterday I was pointed to a post by Jessica Fore in which she shares her side of a long struggle with her church and presbytery over dealing with finding out that she was being abused by her husband. Her post makes it very clear that the decisions and actions of the church leadership were anything but supportive to her. Now things have come to the point where she is publically voicing her descent over what she perceives as a significant failure in leadership; and the church has formally indicted her for not submitting to and obeying their leadership.

I realize that this post is just her side of events, however it not the first that I have heard, or even the second, or third. I am dismayed at hearing stories like this. The unfortunate reality is that abuse happens in the church. More than we care to admit. When they come to light, these situations are not pretty. They are ridiculously complicated. They are messy and unpleasant.

The worst way to handle situations like domestic violence between church members is by insisting that it be kept “in house.” By discouraging victims from talking about abuse that is going on, or discouraging them from leaving their abuser because it is their spouse (1 Corinthians 7:11), or discouraging pursuing legal action against an abuser because Christians should not take each other to court (1 Corinthians 6:6), and when it is implied that failure to comply with such direction would be a violation of Scriptures that teach submission to the authority of the elders (1 Peter 5:5 and Hebrews 13:5), circumstances like Jessica’s are predictably where you will end up. Such counsel shows an anemic understanding and application of Scripture that is neither right nor righteous. It shows a hardness of heart that is contrary to love, and ends up multiplying abuse instead of snuffing it out.

If anyone can work this out and reconcile what has gone awry it is Jesus, and I am sure He is on it. I pray that both Jessica and the leadership of her church will be sensitive to His leading, and that Jessica will incarnate the grace necessary to forgive them, and that the elders will incarnate His truth in owning their sin in the way they handled her situation, so this conflict can be resolved.

27 Comments

  1. Dan

    I don’t know how the PCA does church discipline, but this likely was pointed in the wrong direction.

    First, they may have failed in some legal ways, I don’t know the applicable laws honestly.

    Furthermore, the men of that church should have discussed this issue with the abusing spouse, or elders, or however they do it. For us, it’s any member with personal knowledge of the sin. But, at any rate, they seem as if they got the cart before the horse to me.

    If their interest was saving a marriage, then abusers have to be dealt with, both legally and through church discipline.

    Just my two cents.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Agreed. Laws vary I know, but in MA as a pastor I am a mandated reporter. I have to report the suspicion of abuse. Law has to be involved in a case like this. What really gets me though is how often I hear of things like this.

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      1. Ah..that’s the expression I was looking for, mandated reporter. Thanks.

        Yeah, it’s a shame and it’s too often. I could get real fired up and let loose a sermon on men’s responsibilities and how we need to hold each other accountable, but I shall not LOL

        Liked by 1 person

          1. Read that post of yours. Awesome. This interim job is going to require a lot of that kind of thing. The pastor who is leaving after 16 years could not deal with the conflict there. He was just too passive and reserved, and it has gotten deep and serious.

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  2. I’ve done most everything a layman an do in my church; acolyte, choir, Sunday teacher and Super, Elder, Liturgist, even “guest pastor” conducting services and preaching the sermon the “real” pastor asked me to read. My last position was president of the congregation. In all of these positions over decades, I’ve found churches to be the worst places on the planet when it comes to personal relationships.

    One recent example; I used a humorous illustration with some leadership and both pastors to point out the inertia inherent in any organization – “That’s how we’ve always done it.” I’ve used it for years, always gotten a laugh out of it, and even been asked to write it out for others to use.

    At church? They completely missed the point and took great offense.

    So am I surprised at what happened here and at many of the comments? Sadly, no. My only explanation is Satan is working harder there than anywhere else. 😦

    Liked by 1 person

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