Letter to a Brother in Christ

The following is a letter I wrote to a gentleman who encountered my interactions with Doug Wilson and those discussing the Steven Sitler and Jamin Wight abuse cases and wrote to ask me a couple of questions.

Dear Brother,

You asked about my interest in this mess, and I think that’s actually an excellent place to start. My doubts and issues with Doug Wilson started with a personal experience. My friend’s mother has been emotionally and physically abusive to her her whole life. None of us had any idea about it until things started getting crazy a few months before she got married. As the situation escalated, she sought help from a few different pastors who generally ignored or minimized the serious issues.

Since that time I have researched abuse in the church (and discovered in the process that child abusers and abusive spouses demonstrate very similar patterns and mindsets). Initially I researched the topic to come to understand the bewildering and overwhelming events of that summer, but as I studied I became increasingly concerned about how churches and pastors tended to respond. There are patterns which emerge again and again, many of them having to do with pastors being unequipped to deal with abusive personalities (these people tend to be very good at manipulative techniques, especially “gas-lighting” which can cause victims and others involved to doubt their own experiences/knowledge of the situation. We experienced a great deal of this with my friend’s parents; they nearly succeeded in convincing us that my friend was exaggerating, and making things up; this, despite the fact that her mother displayed very erratic and inexcusable behavior including physical assault of my friend and her fiance).

I highly recommend exploring the blog posts at http://cryingoutforjustice.com/ if you want to read in-depth treatments of domestic abuse and of church mis-handlings of the same (if you would like to compare patterns of abuse with those of a child sexual abuser, Clara’s account of her life married to a serial pedophile provides many examples of a manipulative personality at work http://www.findingahealingplace.com/ ). Boz Tchividjian’s material http://boz.religionnews.com/ is very informative as well; he has a great deal of expertise in dealing with child sexual abuse in a court setting and now as a consultant.

To sum up, I essentially discovered two things: 1) abusers follow certain recognizable patterns in behavior and speech; 2) churches follow recognizable patterns in mishandling them.

At some point during this journey, I rediscovered the stories of Steven Sitler and Jamin Wight. I had heard something about them before, but I was previously disposed to simply trust Doug Wilson’s assessment that his enemies in Moscow passed on false and distorted information about him out of malice and to think no more of it. Now, with a different perspective on issues of sexual abuse, I chose to reexamine these matters.

I don’t remember where I found the information on Sitler, probably on a website which expressed strong enough views against Wilson that most CREC individuals would dismiss it out of hand, but I read the Jamin Wight story on the blog of his victim http://natalierose-livewithpassion.blogspot.com/ and I found the story very familiar and having every appearance of truth and legitimacy.

It is actually with this discovery that I began the journey that eventually led me to leave the CREC entirely (I call an Anglican church home now, and am grateful God has given me such a community of believers to participate in as I wrestle to come to terms with very difficult issues). Doug Wilson’s fault in the Jamin Wight case seems very plain to me: he offered support to the abuser rather than to the victim, and he blamed her at least in part for the very grievous sin committed against her (I think in part motivated by an overly strict reading of OT law concerning rape, and the duty of the victim to “cry out.” Presumably he understood it in much the same way here as he did in his treatment of the Doug Philips sexual abuse case. He does not seem to be familiar with or concerned about the way sexual abusers groom their victims or to have an understanding of the effects of sexual abuse on the psyche of the victim).

Although the Sitler case is of a somewhat different nature, I believe there is enough similarity between the two to see the same patterns at work and the same mistakes being made. Wilson appears to be extremely ignorant (at this point willfully so) of how sexual abusers operate. This is what causes me to believe he is an unfit judge of a serial abuser’s “repentance.” He doesn’t understand the sin in its fullness, how could he possibly assess repentance?

Although I cannot see Steven Sitler’s heart, of course, I do find it troubling that he chose to marry and have children. This does not appear to be the action of a man who understands the grievousness of what he did to those children; at best it is self-delusion of a potentially disastrous kind (if Steven fails to fight off temptation, even once, he could cause his child immeasurable damage), at worst it is something too terrible for words. Boz Tchividjian put it well in this quote from G.R.A.C.E.’s Facebook page: “Only God knows the heart of the one who claims to be repentant. However, one who is repentant knows the darkness of their own heart more than anyone else and should be the first one to acknowledge that he is capable of recommiting such dark offenses. The church demonstrates love by knowing this and taking steps to insure such abuse never happens again.”

Douglas Wilson chose not only to accept Sitler’s repentance as genuine, but to ask for leniency (even though repentance does not necessarily figure into the administration of justice, especially in a case of such a heinous crime), and further, to bless the marriage of a serial pedophile who wishes to have children. This is not what a pastor who understood child sexual abuse and took it seriously would do.

He has been called to account on his treatment of the Sitler case once before and has refused to hear the counsel of other or reconsider his choices. I do not believe Wilson is in the habit of admitting fault.

Since I first familiarized myself with the Jamin Wight and Steven Sitler cases, I have come to know a number of people who have left the CREC for various reasons, and their stories have confirmed to me that 1) the CREC frequently fosters environments in which abuse can thrive and 2) Doug Wilson particularly frequently engages in very arrogant and manipulative behaviors. I know this may seem flippant, but I can do nothing better at this time than to direct you to the CREC Memes website https://crecmemes.wordpress.com/tag/i-shit-you-not/ as a number of these stories are available in bite-size form (and I am not at liberty to tell other people’s stories as that could damage their relationships with others within the CREC). I assure you that what you find there is truthful, and though the humor is biting and dark at times, it reflects people who are trying to heal from and come to grips with serious wrongs which have taken place.

And FINALLY I can answer your first question: what caused me to join the fray at the time and in the way that I chose to?

1) I believe it is an opportune time. More eyes are on Wilson, looking for answers on these questions than ever before. After a long time of waiting, those of us with concerns can finally press for answers.

This also explains, a little, my urgency in questioning him and “making a big stink.” I could not forgive myself for being silent if there were even a chance that a) Wilson would repent and apologize for his mishandling and arrogance or b) others would come to see the harm that his choices cause and choose themselves to stop supporting his errors.

2) Honestly, I’m engaging now because I am ready. I have had my reservations for a long time, but haven’t been prepared to deal with the repercussions of speaking out. I’m not all the way prepared now, but I know my own mind, and believe that I am standing for what is right. My confidence is increased by taking counsel with other friends who have left the CREC or similar church environments and by the fact that Boz Tchividjian, who knows much more than I will ever have to about abuse in Christian environments, shares the same concerns (not to mention Julie Anne Smith, Dee Parsons, and Rachel Miller; all are very informed on abuse; I do not agree with all of them theologically, sometimes on very important points, but I do trust the combined wisdom of these sources when it comes to their areas of expertise).

Your second question about what would be beneficial for “on-the-fence” CRECers is quite difficult. As I mentioned, I have chosen to leave the CREC for a number of reasons, some directly related to the issues mentioned here and some fairly removed from those reasons. This makes it a little difficult to advise those who remain, on the whole, fairly loyal CREC members.

But I think I do have one major piece of advice that I would give to anyone concerned about this ugly mess. I think it is of great importance to come to understand the sins and behaviors involved, both those of abusers and those which churches commit when they attempt to respond to abusers. No one should ignore the counsel of those who specialize in these topics. That doesn’t mean accepting the conclusions of “experts” uncritically; we must all make up our own minds, but it is wisdom to admit that you do not understand certain things and to learn from those who do.

I would also ask those in the CREC who are seriously concerned about these issues to press forward and deal with them. Ask the difficult questions, don’t just hope that this will blow over. When dealing with abuse, it is important to remember that there are victims who may not be able to speak for themselves for any number of reasons, and it is the duty of every one of their brothers and sisters to take their cause up and advocate for them. Don’t simply accept what is handed down from on high; sometimes the guys at the top make the biggest mistakes. Abuse and manipulation thrive on silence. When we give victims voices, God can do wonderful things.

Brother, thank you for writing to me. May the God of all peace give you peace.

In Him,

Sarah

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4 comments on “Letter to a Brother in Christ

  1. edencity says:

    Dear Sarah:

    I’m not following these cases, but I see some of what you are saying.

    As you may or may not know, I went back to the church of which I was a member before the YOHAD (Years Of Hell And Death) in Pella, because I wanted assurance, protection, to be closer to the community of which I was a part, and the tunes.

    Love in King Jesus,

    Charlie ‘my old name too’ Hartman

    – A BRIEF explanation of the art form of the next era. Great for evangelism and discipleship.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hu38m1EAjrw&feature=channel_page http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iSqBgw03rQo (@ 2 minutes in, history conducted) http://chuckhartmanhistoryconductor.blogspot.com/

    SuperCalendar, LectionaryHistorical, MaeDay80, Rhyming Covenant Sequences – If you ever in your life had a bright idea, or a new instinct, or a new change of heart, Sir, make this the cornerstone of your understanding of the universe and you will understand that the universe begins with creation. And it ends in incarnation, because that’s the experience of every potent and creative man in the world. But you look outside and try to deduce by your little brain, not by your experience of your heart how the world begins, and how it should be run. You’ll never solve it, gentlemen. You’ll remain a selfish, inarticulate animal. If the spirit moves you, you will see how simple things are, gentlemen. Love begins, and hope keeps you going, and faith. And in the end, your grandchildren will bless you. ERH

  2. Sarah,

    I am writing you as yet another brother in Christ and I do offer you the following for your enlightenment, as it appears to me that you are working out your own enlightenment in semi “public”, in as much as the public views your blog. That in its’ self is a further enlightenment.

    I have skimmed your blog and see that you and I have covered similar ground but have come to different conclusions. While I am a stranger and could be one of the negative types you speak of above, I am happy to let The Word, The Spirit and your own intelect draw you to your own conclusions.

    Romans 8:27-29

    27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.

    28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

    The problem with many of the “abuse” resources you mention above, “Crying out for Justice” in particular, is that they have been taken in by Lundy Bancroft, a cult founder and “abuse” charlatan, per the link below.

    http://transitiontoanewworld.blogspot.com/2011/03/new-spiritual-community.html

    Not only is Lundy Bancroft a cult founder and charlatan, he does not do any legitimate research that I can find, though the one peice of “research ” I can find, is illegitimate.

    http://www.fatherhoodcoalition.org/cpf/newreadings/2004/MC_Basile_v_Harvard_junk_science.htm

    Lundy Bancroft was actually fired from the Massachusetts Court system, due to his illegitimate opinions on “abuse”.

    http://www.fatherhoodcoalition.org/cpf/2003/LundyNtonForum030619.htm

    Crying out for Justice knows or should know that Bancroft is a cult founder because I have emailed pastor Crippen on the issue. He has never responded.

    For a woman’s perspective on Bancroft, I found this site helpful.

    https://exposegcm.wordpress.com/2013/02/09/why-does-he-do-that-by-lundy-bancroft/

    To conclude Sarah, I might be a monster, abusive, patriarchal and manipulative etc.

    Though I ask you in the Name of Jesus to consider the facts above, in the Light of God’s Word.

    Look to The Word and Spirit alone for God’s truth Sarah.

    I am happy to write more if you want.

    Thanks and Salt, Jason

    • Sarah says:

      Thanks for the link. I have heard Lundy Bancroft highly recommended, but have not personally read anything except for the selections on A Cry for Justice’s website.

      I will do some reading on Lundy, although I can’t promise it will be speedy. Seminary classes just started up, and I have a full load. I will look into it though.

      I don’t believe that changes any of my conclusions, because my sources have been varied and do not rest on one person or one group. I, however, linked to A Cry for Justice, because I thought that would be the most palatable source for a Reformed Christian reader. If I find anything to discredit them, I will change my recommendations accordingly.

      I’m a little puzzled by this comment, “to conclude Sarah, I might be a monster, abusive, patriarchal and manipulative etc.” Why do you say that?

      • Sarah,

        I said that because, like any stanger, you can’t know my Fruit at first brush, and we may never meet.
        I am a male, so according to some I am suspect. Abraham was a male and a “patriarch”.

        Lundy Bancroft is a 2 Timothy 3 deceiver, I could be one too. Trust God first, not me or the attractive opinions of others.

        “My confidence is increased by taking counsel with other friends who have left the CREC or similar church environments…”

        We all need the counsel of other people, but the best counsel comes from God and His Word.

        I am 55 years old and I am still learning the depth of this truth.

        I am actually trust worthy but I am fallible, like those “abuse” experts you refer to above.

        My family is unusually stressed because one of our two children has autism. Some women in ministry, who did not know me or our family situation, falsely accused me of “abuse” based on some of the ideas you mention above. When I mentioned to their church leadership, the reliance of their ministry on cult founder Lundy Bancroft, the “president” of the ministry sued me in court for “harrassement” but she lost.

        My wife and I are still married, though our family is still recovering from the above damage of false accusations.

        But again Sarah, you can’t know as of yet, if I am being truthful, although I tell you I am.

        Look at those links and look to the Word.

        Matt. 18:15-17 tells us all how to deal with sin. Then consider if you, me and the christian “abuse advocate sub culture” are in submission to the Word.

        We all, men and women, must be in submission to the Word.

        Thanks and Salt, Jason

        Matthew 10
        16 “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.

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