Two years ago, the curtains were drawn back for me regarding reviling behavior towards me and others from officers in my own denomination. I tried to confront it at the denominational level, as well as locally since one of my elders was participating in this group.
I tried to go through this process of exposing darkness, seeking care, repentance, reconciliation, and justice in a godly—and presbyterian—way. I have failed at times. Even when my actions were acceptable, often my heart was not. Please forgive me if I have led anyone into sin in that way.
I have been documenting the public parts of this process on the denominational level, not the local, more personal level. The links are below. Because of this, other women who have suffered through abuse in the OPC began reaching out to me. Most of them never even had access to the system. Others were battered by it. Their stories are far worse than mine and most of them have not been heard. Some shared that they were experiencing healing from my writing, as it expressed the same patterns and actions that they encountered in seeking help. It helped to name it. To see that it isn’t them. And they were getting hopeful that something may be done about it. I carry these women and stories with me in my own writing.
My experience in trying to follow this through has made visible to me why I have been writing all along. I’ve been writing to prove my own existence, and that of my sex, as disciples in the church. Ones that think. And contribute theologically. And yet I still didn’t realize how bad it was. How pervasive the views of women’s’ inferiority and lust for men’s power are. The process in seeking help made me feel less like a part of the household of God, less like a sister in Christ, and less like a gift.
I couldn’t understand how someone could have as many receipts as I did and have the whole matter be parsed into two words: raging wolf. If this number of church officers have these beliefs and feel free to speak like this in the open, how many women are silently suffering in their churches? And even the positive actions of the General Assembly (GA) were terribly demeaning to me on multiple levels. Wrapped up in that is that there is no design in the process for seeking out the voices of the very ones affected by the decisions made by those with the agency to do so.
I wanted so badly to hold onto my church.
After GA, all the formal and informal action and inaction took its toll on me. The session meetings, announcements, apologies to the men, committee reports, presbytery meetings, trials, appeals, and GA all sent messages to me about my value. As strong as I was trying to be, the physiological effects were manifesting.
After GA, my family decided we needed to step back for clarity and healing. We have been worshipping at a different church since then. We still have love for New Hope, the people in it, and want the church there to thrive. We’ve shared with our elders, and they generously hired a specialist on spiritual abuse to facilitate, how we are processing all this. This week we asked that our memberships be removed.
I wish it didn’t have to be this way. But God is upholding us. He is good. And he has provided a loving church that we can begin healing in.
My prayer for the OPC is that they will hire a third party like G.R.A.C.E. to address the abuse in the church that is compounding and to help with caring for survivors. I pray that they will investigate how the system is hindering women from reporting and move towards reform. I pray that they will have a vision for this. I pray that abuse will no longer be enabled. And that they will value the voices of their women.
But I realize now that I kept asking myself if I was safe in the OPC. Even as I was being answered over and over with a resounding NO and I was learning this is the case for many women in the denomination, I hadn’t realized how distorted my thinking had become. What kind of question is that? We should be asking if we are flourishing there.
There are so many good things that I don’t want to walk away from. But I realize even more how that is why people stay in abusive situations for so long. They have so much invested. There are many wonderful moments and people mixed in with the toxicity. I pray that this is an opportunity for the OPC to evaluate her witness to the world and churches around them. And to evaluate what is being taught about man and woman in their churches and whether that brings glory to God.
I need to move forward in a church where I am valued as a gift whose contributions matter like anyone else’s. Where any guidance or critique is offered in love and not as attacks on my character and plots to ruin my reputation and vocation. My children need to see that not all church is like this. I don’t know what the long-term effects of these last two years are on them. I wanted to show them to follow through for what’s right, even when it costs. I wanted to show them a mother who would stand up for herself and others. But now I need to show them that sometimes you need to walk away. Sometimes you are contributing to your own abuse by staying. Furthermore, since my case has been public, I cannot in good conscience send a message to any of the vulnerable looking for help in the OPC that they will be safe. As Spurgeon put it so well, “Leniency to the dishonest is cruelty to those whom they injure.” On the denominational level, I’m done fighting to belong to such cruelty.
Don’t hear me wrong. There are many good people in the OPC. And in these hard times, I have made new friends with church officers in the denomination who have labored for my case. I am grateful for their friendship, support, longsuffering and listening ears. I am grateful for our time and growth at New Hope, the friendships there, and for my elders putting so much costly time in trying to do what is right.
I want to publicly thank all those who have sent me private messages of encouragement. You have been gifts from the Lord to me.
Thank you to my friends who have been with me in my lamenting and weakest moments. Thanks for showing me beauty.
Thank you to all who have supported me publicly in different ways. I know it often costs. It speaks so much to me that you see and vocalize support.
Thank you to the signers and writers of the Open Letter when this was first brought to light, and even for reaching out to post it on my blog. That action sent a message to all those who were reviled against that we are worth public expressions of care.
Thank you to my husband who shows me true freedom in belonging.