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.