What We Believe
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The Difficulty of Seeing Domestic Abuse

In every observable way, Rebecca and Steve’s marriage is a good one. They are at church every Sunday with their five beautiful children. Steve volunteers on church committees, and he is full of just the right kind of humor. Rebecca is friends with many of the young mothers in the church. One Sunday, Steve approaches the pastor. He says that his marriage has hit a rough patch. “I am working overtime, and Rebecca is growing resentful. I have tried everything, but Rebecca remains cold and is not tending to the house and children.” Steve goes on to explain that Rebecca is silent during family devotions, and he fears her attitude will harm the children. He suggests that maybe Rebecca has not gotten over her father’s abandonment, but he feels she should not be taking her pain out on him and their children. He then asks the pastor if one of the ladies of the church could disciple Rebecca. The pastor thinks it reasonable to agree to the support, as Rebecca is managing five young children with a... Read more

My Story of Being Set Free from Abuse

From the moment that I became a follower of Christ as a child, my life was centered around God. As an adult, I experienced incredible darkness in an abusive marriage, but God has always proved faithful. He has delivered me. My family moved from Iran to San Jose, California, in 1986 due to the war in Iran. We were Muslims. As a result of what I witnessed in Iran, I had many questions about God and why God would allow so much suffering. My Muslim family did not know who Jesus was. Soon after we entered America, I was told of Jesus and his great sacrifice. I learned that Jesus had died on the cross so that I could have eternal life. Having heard of such a great love of God, I could not hold my own love back (1 John 4:19), and Jesus made me his follower at the age of nine. A Muslim Convert Soon after conversion, I was given a Bible, but my parents took it away from me. My father was so angry about my conversion that he considered moving us back to Iran and back into the dangerous war zone because, he... Read more

A Lawyer’s Perspective on Sexual Abuse in the Church

What are the church’s obligations when a member of the church reports sexual abuse against her by a family member, another member of the church, or by a church officer? A survivor of sexual abuse comes to the church as one of Christ’s lambs whom the church has an obligation to nurture and protect. (See John 21:15–17.) And the church’s ministerial responsibility is not only to her, but also to the alleged abuser and to the entirety of the congregation. (Although men may also be victims of abuse, this is less common, and this article will reflect this.) The church may also have important obligations to the civil magistrate and others outside the church. The church, then, must carefully take into account all these ministerial relationships and external obligations as it deals with reports of sexual abuse. Internal Church Investigation The church’s investigation must be thorough, sensitive, and confidential. The church should acquaint itself with the particular characteristics of sexual abusers,... Read more

The Church’s Response to Abuse: An Interview with Robert B. Needham

William Shishko, pastor of The Haven, OPC, in Suffolk County, New York, here interviews OP minister and Navy chaplain Robert Needham, coauthor of What to Do When You Are Abused by Your Husband: A Biblical Perspective (2003; republished 2018). WS: How did you come to write What to Do When You Are Abused by Your Husband: A Biblical Perspective , coauthored with Debi Pryde? In January 2002, I taught a counseling course at Westminster Seminary California. Part of the material I used was on wife and child abuse and proper responses to it by counselors and by the church. (I had encountered many domestic abuse cases during my years as a Navy chaplain.) One of my students, Debi Pryde, not only told me that I should put that material into print, but also helped me to do it and gave me substantial input and ideas as well. WS: You have called the toleration of domestic abuse “the great scandal of the evangelical church.” Why is that the case? Three particular reasons: First, our Lord desires... Read more

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