All of my posts up to this point have been to give information. This time, I am interested in feedback.
In a recent post about counselors and counseling I discussed the manipulator’s ability to out-counsel even an experienced counselor. I believe that many pastors do not receive enough training in counseling in general and even less for counseling manipulators and abusers. Lack of experience, knowledge and time are major deterrents to a pastor’s ability to effectively counsel complicated situations where abuse, manipulation and control exist.
When I returned to the state and my church, which was without a pastor at that time, the deacons were running the show. I had been receiving counsel from several sources up to that point and there was a couple at my church that helped me a great deal. Once I returned however, the deacons wanted to step in and this couple to step out. Much of this was related to the fact that my husband had initiated contact with the deacons and had insisted this couple was detrimental to the situation.
The deacons began to get involved once I informed them of my intent to both return to the state and begin regularly attending my church again. It was at this time I also informed them that I was pursing divorce. I had been gone for 4 months and had not heard a thing, not one thing from them, until then. Now, all of a sudden, my situation mattered. They wanted me to hold off pursuing divorce. They wanted to be sure I had exhausted every avenue. They wanted me to reconcile.
Not long after that, my former husband also began contacting the deacons. He said he wanted to reconcile. He was willing to forgive and forget. He was willing to forgive the friends that helped me get out of my situation. He wanted to make everything better. I had predicted this. I told the deacons it was what was going to happen. I told them to be careful not to be fooled. (This was something they had to learn on their own)
To be fair I will say they were cautiously optimistic. They wanted to pursue it and give it every opportunity to happen. The problem was that they were more than just 4 months too late. They were 15 years too late. I had tried. I had begged for counseling. I had worked harder and worked to change myself. I had gone to people for help to no avail.
At some point, I would like to go into more detail on their plan as it was both unreasonable and naive at best and did nothing to protect me. I believe it is a good example of how much misunderstanding there really is surrounding these situations.
Not many people knew what had happened. I wasn’t talking and the situation was kept very hush-hush. The official statement read to the church had been very tightly controlled. I was very general in the statement and made no specific allegations, but in fear of retribution, the statement was pared away to an ineffective unenlightening statement of our absence. The pastor resigned his position shortly after this.
The deacons were temporarily in charge and once my return became imminent, my situation became a focal point. They believed they could handle the counseling. They also believed that as long as you have the Bible, you have all the information you need in order to counsel. I am not so sure it is as simple as that.
Scripture is open to interpretation. Over the years many portions of scripture have been debated. Good men have given their lives for the interpretation that they defended. While there are tenets that are essential to the faith, there are certainly less central portions of scripture that not only have a myriad of interpretations, but are not completely clear.
In their interpretation of scripture, my “open conflict with a brother in Christ” (my then husband) was key in their decision to pursue church discipline against me and the other couple in my church who had helped me. Their interpretation of scripture required this of them. They were holding to their convictions. My interpretation was that in my husband’s perpetual mistreatment of me, amongst other issues, he had broken the covenant of marriage, therefore forfeiting that relationship. While it is not Christ’s intent or even desire for this to happen, in certain cases he allows for its dissolution.
This is where I leave the topic open for your thoughts on the matter. Is Scripture all you need for handling situations such as these? Can other modalities be used and trusted? Must one only have an intimate knowledge of Scripture in order to effectively deal with this without any further training?
I have my thoughts but what say you?