Part 2 – My Story of Being A Member of The Abusive Grace Bible Fellowship of Silicon Valley

Part 2 of a 5-part series.  by Velour/MtnShepherdess ©

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 “A Badge of Honor” – My Excommunication & Shunning from a NeoCalvinist Church  – by Velour/MtnShepherdess ©

             “Consider your excommunication as a badge of honor from a church like that!” –

Boz Tchividjian, Attorney/Law Professor/former sex crimes prosecutor/ advocate for child sex abuse victims/founder of Godly Response to Abuse in the Christian Environment (G.R.A.C.E.), grandson of the Rev. Billy Graham,  words of encouragement to me on my excommunication/shunning from Grace Bible Fellowship of Silicon Valley (California)

  1.  Nouthetic Counseling

            I had never heard of this counseling before.  I was told that it was “Biblical”.  It was invented by Jay E. Adams, Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church theologian, and author of Competent to Counsel which was published in 1970. He has a degree in theology.  He is the founder of The Institute for Nouthetic Counseling.

I believe that this form of counseling should be called what it is: malpractice.  I saw it do an incredible amount of damage at my former church.  Untrained pastors/elders who had no training in the big issues that Christians struggle with – alcoholism, depression, mental illness, substance abuse, domestic violence, and sexual abuse issues to name just a few – had meetings about serious topics, quoted Scripture verses, and got it wrong, wrong, wrong.  They diagnosed problems as “sin” problems.

Many times the pastors/elders crossed over the line into the Unauthorized Practice of Medicine, a crime in my state (California) that can be prosecuted as a misdemeanor or a felony. I can now appreciate why my state heavily regulates the medical profession and forbids people without licenses to practice medicine.  I got to see the enormous damage done by this form of “counseling” by people with no education, training, and licensing.

7a.       Alcoholism

I and other church members were required to have months of meetings with the pastors/elders about an older woman church member who caused a lot of drama, chaos, and problems at church.  Two pastors/elders spent months drawing pictures on the black board of Scripture verses and quoted me Scriptures about “gossip”.

Some church members were required to go to the woman’s home and to apologize to her for problems she had caused.  She was constantly telling stories about people that weren’t true and caused lots of problems.

The pastors/elders kept demanding “unity”.  The real issue – she’s an alcoholic – the pastors/elders were not competent or trained to diagnosis.  She should have been referred to a physician to supervise her treatment for alcoholism. (Licensed professionals have pages of questions they have people fill out, and ask the questions a variety of ways, to determine if a person is a substance abuser.)

It was not possible for us to have “unity” with an untreated substance abuser.

The pastors/elders required more than six months of meetings from me about this woman. It was pointless.  I had to act appreciative and grateful to escape the “counseling” sessions from these two pastors/elders.

7b.       I Didn’t Cause Another Person’s Problems, I Can’t Control Them, And I Can’t Cure Them

Perhaps one of the biggest failings of Nouthetic Counseling that I saw was that it promotes Co-Dependency and a lack of healthy boundaries.  Church members with serious problems, who should be seeing licensed professionals and referred to appropriate groups that deal with specific problems, instead were enabled to stay in their unhealthy behaviors by pastors/elders who demanded other members’ time, like mine, in meetings about “unity”.

I didn’t cause these other members’ serious problems, I couldn’t control their problems, and I couldn’t cure their problems.

Verbally Abusive Member Should Have Been In Licensed Therapy

The pastors/elders required that I have nearly eight years’ of meetings with them about another church member, a retired woman known for her stunning level of verbal abuse to church members and attenders.  Former members, including men, called her “grossly immature for her age” and everyone said they went out of their way to avoid her because of how verbally abusive she was to people.

Ridiculing Men Who’d Been Laid Off

When men had been laid off during The Great Recession, men with high-paying jobs, she told them not to come to the fellowship meal any more “until they could contribute” and “had a job”.  They always contributed. But she enjoyed humiliating people.  Some men never returned to the church at all or to the meal after being humiliated.  She told one person that they would “probably become homeless” and laughed.

Ridiculing Christian Women From Other Cultures

She told women who were from cultures that did not bake to not come to the ladies Christmas event and cookie exchange because she “wanted good cookies”.  I had told the women for several months not to worry, to buy something, or don’t participate in that part, or that I would teach them how to bake.  Humiliated that she demanded perfection, they looked down at their plates at the fellowship meal and knew that my invitation that they were invited wasn’t true because to the older woman a plate of “good cookies” was more important than welcoming sisters in Christ from countries around the world at Christmas time. None of those women came to the event.

Ridiculing Me For Helping A Mom With Cancer

Her breathtaking hostility included ridiculing me for receiving an academic award and telling me that I “didn’t deserve it”, ridiculing me for helping a neighbor mom with cancer on a Saturday and going on a tirade because I did my laundry on Sunday and I had “violated The Sabbath” (which we don’t even believe).

Ridiculing Me For Respecting The Wishes Of Church Members With Allergies

When I decided to bake cookies for several hundred church members for the annual members’ meeting, the older woman found fault with my home made brownies. I hadn’t put nuts in the brownies because church members with nut allergies could die from eating nuts and asked me to not put in nuts.  As she ate a brownie she criticized me and said, “Brownies should ALWAYS have nuts. Who cares about people with nut allergies?” I care, because I loved those members.

Demanding Me To Use Hate Speech Against Gays

She hates gays and was constantly attacking them. She ordered me to use hate speech against gays.  I refused. She repeatedly me ordered me, in person, to use hate speech against gays. I refused.

It is vile to talk that way and rude. I also work at a job with a diverse group of employees, including gays, in a state (California) with strict anti-discrimination laws.  I can be fired for using that speech and my employer could be sued.  I have wonderful colleagues who are gay. I also had a gay boss.

My Christian walk is about me living out my faith, not coercing other people to live by the rules of my faith and being uncivil to them for not being a certain way.

[A story I previously posted about how God called me to live out my faith to visit a young man who was dying of AIDS in the hospital right before Christmas: ]

Woman Demands That I Get Rid Of Italian Cross In My Home And Senior Pastor Agreed

When she saw an Italian cross in my living room, she went on another tirade about how “offended” she was that I had it, that I shouldn’t “have it”.  I later asked the senior pastor the best way to handle her since he had known her longer than I had.  He took her side, told me that he would be offended by the Italian cross too, that I shouldn’t have it, and that she was “right”. Both of them are former Catholics.

Under a great deal of pressure from the senior pastor, I got rid of the Italian cross.  It was my birthday gift, I’d had it for years, and it cost hundreds of dollars.  I wish I had walked out of that church then.  I’d never walked in to their homes, criticized their belongings, and told them to get rid of them, including their own birthday gifts.

Pastors/Elders Demands For “Unity” Wrecked My Birthday Dinner

The pastors/elders demanded “unity” and against my better judgment I let her be at my birthday dinner at a restaurant.  We weren’t able to make it through that night either. She ruined my birthday dinner by ridiculing a wife/mother’s beautiful white blouse and skin color to a woman sitting to my right.  The older woman looked the mom up and down and whispered “how terrible she looked” and “all washed out” and that her “white blouse was ‘all wrong’”.  I almost burst into tears and got up and walked out as I watched her ridicule another guest.

A Non-Apology Is Tendered

The chairman of the elder board then required another six months of meetings from me about the woman.  He finally brought us together at a restaurant in the interest of “unity”. Her apology consisted of “I didn’t do it and she acts like God.”  The chairman of the elder board was satisfied with her rude non-apology.  I wasn’t.  He said everything was all better. It wasn’t.

The second woman never apologized to me.  I wish I had gone to the drive-thru by myself for my birthday.  It would have saved my birthday and more than six months of my life spent in insulting meetings.

Each woman should have given a real amends and completely owned what she did.

According to the pastors/elders something was wrong with me for not wanting to be friends with this woman.

A woman I know, married to a recovering alcoholic, told me once before she got help for dealing with an alcoholic, “I wasn’t just a doormat with the word “WELCOME” written on me, I was wall-to-wall carpeting!” She learned how to take care of herself, how to respect herself and demand it from others, even if the alcoholic never came around.  He did come around and their marriage was saved.

But the NeoCalvinist church’s pastors/elders demanded that I be “wall-to-wall carpeting” with no respect and demanded that I engrave “WELCOME” to abusive conduct directed at me.

7c.       Blamed By Pastors/Elders For A Dyslexic Church Member’s Memory Problems

            Right before my excommunication and shunning the chairman of the elder board and the senior pastor demanded more meetings from me about my supposed “sin” toward a Dyslexic woman church member.

The woman church member repeatedly told church members that I was “lying” and that “the truth about me would come out”.  She couldn’t remember entire events and conversations and accused me of lying. She has been medically diagnosed with this disability since childhood.

Dyslexia is a genetically inherited brain disorder.  It’s not just a reading problem but a memory problem. She has short-term memory problems, working memory problems, and auditory memory problems.  She failed school because of the seriousness of her Dyslexia. She also can’t work because of it and receives a monthly disability check from the federal government.  She has received that for more than thirty years.

She refuses to get medical care for her memory problems and be in special support groups. She says that Jesus could “cure her if He wanted to.” Yes, He could, but He hasn’t.

The pastors/elders were enraged with me and demanded more meetings of me. I am not responsible for someone else’s genetically inherited brain disorder and memory problems, I can’t control it, and I can’t cure it.

She had also been angry with me that we weren’t close friends. I can’t change her and I didn’t see her as “friendship material”. She, like the other women, hated gays, said nasty things about them, boycotted her own family’s holiday events because of a gay relative (who works in a respected profession), demanded my personal business and threw temper tantrums when she didn’t get it, demanded other peoples’ personal business, and lacked basic boundaries with others.

She also volunteered my time to other church members to do free childcare and got them angry with me when I had to say “no” as I had no free time. And finally she had the bizarre habit of starting fights with people who were divorced and she told them that they weren’t “really divorced” and that their ex-spouse was their “current spouse” and she demanded that they call that ex-spouse their current spouse. She caused many fights by her bizarre, inappropriate demands and her inability to deal with reality. Apparently our courts and laws don’t exist either, because she “says so”.

7d.       Self-Confrontation book by John C. Croger

            My pastors/elders, church members, and Bible Study leader studied this book. The theme was again about using the Bible to counsel people about all problems in life.

I found it very unhelpful and very dangerous advice. To me it crossed the line into malpractice and the Unauthorized Practice of Medicine. I love Scripture. And it is helpful in many situations. But I am opposed to putting a Scripture verse on every problem and calling it “solved”.

We have trained, licensed professionals to deal with serious problems. The Bible also tells us that in many counselors there is wisdom.

It is dangerous and frankly unconscionable that these “pastors”/”elders” and others like them are not being trained in the big problems that people will face and how to handle them.

7e.       A Diploma Mill “Ph.D.” Was “Counseling” Me?

            My former pastor claimed a variety of credentials to church members that we  later checked since so many of us had problems with him. A job he claimed that he had, a credential he claimed that he had, and two advanced degrees that he claimed that he had including a Ph.D. turned out not to be true when I and other former church members checked.

My ex-pastor’s “Ph.D.” was not from a accredited university that takes eight years to earn. Instead my ex-pastor’s “Ph.D.”  was from the Bible College in Independence, Missouri, a diploma mill. The cost is $299.  According to the U.S. Department of Education the Bible College is not accredited.  The one “accrediting agency” for the Bible College was brought up on fraud charges by the Missouri Attorney General’s Office and was banned from operating in Missouri.  I recently advised the Missouri Attorney General that they are operating in Missouri despite the ban.

The chairman of the elder board at my church works for a computer company in sales. He has a university degree, but no training in all of these “big topics” that would truly render him “competent to counsel”.

Other pastors/elders likewise had college degrees of some kind, but no training in serious problems and viable education. “Counseling” consisted of listening to their opinions, and a few Scripture verses and threats for good measure.

They were all incompetent to counsel. I have never seen so much harm done to so many lives as the skill set they claimed to have and are horrible at. I have had more training and education about these “big subjects” than they have had. I know more than they do.

  1. Young Earth Creation

            My senior pastor believed in a Young Earth Creation story and he constantly told us that the earth was only 6,000 years old and “isn’t it a miracle”.  I thought it was “a miracle” how proud he was of his lack of education.  I felt like I was surrounded by a group of people who said “2+2 =5”.  As long as they all said “5” enough times, everyone else is supposed to believe it. If we don’t, according to the Young Earthers we weren’t really Christians and didn’t really believe The Bible.  That’s nonsense.

My grandmother died at 102 years of age. She graduated from a famous university with a degree in science, as did her sister, when it was unheard of for women in the 1920’s. My grandmother and other women worked on the teams of Nobel Prize-winning researchers at the university.  My grandmother, a Presbyterian, believed in an Old Earth.  Science and faith were not a contradiction for her or for the other award-winning scientists on their teams who were Christians.

I know many young people who have turned away from the Christian faith because these Reformers are insisting on a Young Earth. If a young person accepts science, and that the earth is far older, than they are taught to reject the faith as the only alternative.

And I believe in an Old Earth and I am still a Christian. I look at the mountains and I know they are more than 6,000 years old.  And I think they are a miracle of God.  Like my grandmother, believing in an old Earth and being a Christian are perfectly acceptable to me.

  1. Council on Biblical Manhood Womanhood’s Teachings

            I had never heard of the Council on Biblical Manhood Womanhood and its dangers. I never knew that seeing it on a church website was a warning sign of an abusive church and an authoritarian structure, just like seeing the names 9Marks or Acts 29.

My ex-pastor repeatedly told women to “obey” and “submit”.  They were treated like second-class citizens. I was shocked when I first heard him say it.   We were told that it was “Biblical”, which I’ve just learned means, “Do it our way and don’t question. If you question us you’re un-Biblical.”

The pastor taught us women a book about being Biblical women. We met on one night a week at the church for several months.

We were told that women couldn’t be teachers. I really began to question Complementarian teachings, which I have since learned from Wartburg Watch readers like Gram3 that it started being heavily taught in the late 1990’s.

My Presbyterian grandmother had women medical missionary friends who were doctors and provided medical care and taught The Gospel in remote parts of the world. I grew up seeing their slide shows and seeing changed lives and villages.

I began to question the Comp teaching that women “couldn’t”, “shouldn’t” teach or employ their other gifts from God, when I thought about all of those women that I had seen further the kingdom.  I knew it wasn’t true. I had met Christian women teachers, missionaries, and pastors since I was a child.

At the NeoCalvinist, Complementarian promoting church we had strictly segregated events.  Women weren’t allowed to go fishing, to ball games, or to do trips in the mountains.  Those were for the men. We were strictly segregated from the men and did things like ladies teas with a speaker and crafts projects.  While they were nice events, many of us gals just wanted to be tom-boys and do fun stuff, without dressing up.

Related articles in 5-part series

Part 1:

Part 3:

Part 4:

Part 5: