How Complementarianism Played Into My Sexual Abuse Under My Former Pastor, Doug Wilson (by Natalie Greenfield)

Meet my new friend Natalie Greenfield. I began following Natalie about a month ago. She uses her Twitter account to advocate for those who have been sexually abused in the Church @NatalieGfield. When I began my mission of “breaking the glass steeple” in 2014 my reasonings were much smaller than God’s reasonings.

I simply wanted ‘women in ministry’ to be equally considered as pastors and leaders of adults in the evangelical church. God had specifically told me to “set the captives free” but since I grew up in an egalitarian home and my only experience with “complementarian limitation and oppression” was not being permitted equal job opportunities in the Church, I had no idea the depths of evil complementarism can lead to.

The past six months or so, I had a wake up call. God has shown me that this ministry God led me to start is not really about myself getting a better job, but about the thousands of women I have never met who are enslaved by various forms of religious patriarchy.

Today I see clearer than ever. Today I am certain that complementarianism must come to an end in the evangelical church. It is psychologically unhealthy for men and women alike, as well as an unsafe doctrine for girls and women. 

It claims that men are to sacrificially lead women and women are to submit to their leadership, but men are not God and God is not a man. One way submission was never the Apostle Paul’s marital advice (see Eph. 5:21), yet his command to “mutually submit” is often under emphasised; while “wives submit to your husbands (Eph 5:22)” is often dangerously over-emphasised, leading to a man-centric church and view of God.

Complementarian theology is too easy for corrupt humans to abuse and all humans are corrupt to some degree because we all fall short of God’s glory (Rom. 3:23).

ask you to open your hearts today and hear the story of an innocent young girl who fell into the hands of a devastating doctrine. I will not judge Doug Wilson’s heart because I don’t personally know him, but I do irrevocably stand with Natalie as she now shares her story with the world as a woman. -Jory Micah

~~~~~

natalie

Natalie Greenfield is a mother, wife, business owner, musician, and sexual abuse advocate. Through her personal blog she shares stories of the longterm sexual abuse she suffered as a young teen while attending Christ Church in Moscow, Idaho. Natalie is blessed to be years down her road of healing and enjoys a full life in beautiful Northern Idaho with her husband, Wesley, their 3 young children and a chocolate lab. Find Natalie’s Blog HERE.

~~~~~

Natalie’s Story

 After church one Sunday, when I was 13 years old, a pastor-in-training asked me about my plans for my future.
***

“What do you want to do?”

I answered confidently, “I’m going to be a musician. I want to travel the world performing.”

He frowned. “What about a family?”

“Oh, I want a family someday but not until I’m older. Maybe when I’m 30. I have other things to do first.”

The conversation ended, and at the time I didn’t know it but this man and I would have many more discussions about my future. In fact this man, who was 10 years older than I, would go on to groom me for the following several months and then sexually, physically, and emotionally abuse me for 2 years.

He would take nearly everything from me – my innocence, my self-esteem, my joy, my ambitions, and the entirety of my life as I knew it.
***

He would use the teachings of the church I was raised in to keep me in a place of quiet submission and obedience. My strong leadership skills, the ones I’d exhibited since I was old enough to talk, and that made people call me ‘bossy’ and ‘loud-mouthed’, would systematically be trained out of me and replaced with a meek and timid spirit that didn’t know the first thing about standing up or speaking out, and all of it would be done in the name of making me into “wife material”.

Before the abuse, I was a free spirit. Bubbly and extroverted, I loved people, music, dancing, and performing. I was averse to conflict and wanted everyone to get along and just love each other.

When I was 13 years old, my family moved to Moscow, Idaho, from a town 40 minutes away, in order to be closer to the church we’d been commuting to for years, and living in the same small town as the rest of the church community meant being more involved in church life. Choir practice, social functions, church potlucks & dances, Psalm sings, and Bible studies quickly became an integral part of my life.
***

As we were more active in the church community, I started to hear that people thought I was “boy crazy”, too flirtatious, too loud and uninhibited. These rumors bothered me. I knew the church taught that women should dress modestly and carry themselves with grace and gentleness, and I remember desperately trying to fit in and figure out what that meant for me.

Who was I supposed to be? I didn’t want to be a rebel or cause my Christian brothers to stumble, but at a tender, impressionable age and with a rapidly developing body that looked more like a woman’s than a young girl’s, I struggled to reconcile my personality and appearance with the idea that I was responsible for the way men responded to me. Every decision I made about my dress and behavior had to be weighed against the ever watching eye of a church whose views on gender roles were rigid and unforgiving.

After the abuse began, I saw the dark underbelly of what was expected of me as a female. Granted, my abuser’s treatment of me was twisted and perverse child abuse, but, ironically, the words coming out of his mouth were taken verbatim from what the church taught about gender roles in marriage.

I was to submit to the man and obey him, meet his sexual needs with a joyful spirit, respectfully follow the rules set for my behavior in and out of the home, and tailor my future plans to meet the needs of my family, with the goal of eventually filling the home with offspring. Any additional interests of mine were an afterthought, something I could pursue in my spare time but without any real focus, as they weren’t part of what Christ called me to do as a Godly woman. This was the foundation my abuser was laying.
***
His plan was to convince my parents to allow him to marry me when I was 17, at which time the “sexual sins” we’d committed would be null and void, though he justified those by saying in God’s eyes we were “basically already married”.
***
He made it very clear to me, through threats and intimidation, that I was never to tell anyone what was going on between him and me. After all, he was a prize student in the church’s seminary program, Greyfriars, and if anyone found out what was going on it would surely threaten his dream of becoming a pastor, a goal he was quite close to at that point in time.

In hindsight, it’s frightening to realize he was taking everything he had been taught about gender roles and applying them to a young, vulnerable girl. The addition of his cruelty and predatory behavior created an ugly, criminal concoction, one that almost took my life.

Nearly three years after the abuse ended, when I’d suffered in silence long enough and finally decided to tell someone, it never occurred to me that the church’s response might be in favor of my abuser, yet that’s exactly what happened. It was evidenced by their handling of the situation that teenaged girls just don’t have the same value as would-be pastors.

The focus was on “salvaging” him, whatever the cost, and that meant I was marginalized while my abuser was trusted, blame was shifted to me and my family and away from him, I was not offered resources or professional counseling, love and caring were not extended to me in my hour of need, and my already shattered life was further broken.

Several men in the church wrote letters to the court heralding my abuser’s character and blaming my good looks and flirtatious behavior for the ‘mistakes’ he made. My father was harshly rebuked by the church for “failing to protect” me.

My former pastor, Doug Wilson, wrote letters to the judge and to an officer of the law requesting leniency for my abuser and even sat on his side of the courtroom at the sentencing. Alienated and exposed, I left the church within a year of coming out about the abuse. I was then placed under church discipline, barred from communion for dating a non-Christian man.

Now, nearly ten years down the road, I am so grateful to be free from the church of my youth where the voices of victims are stifled and scandals are swept under rugs in order to protect men in positions of power.

To this day, Doug Wilson stands by his decisions to defend my abuser and blame my family for the abuse I suffered. He continues his attempts to silence and shame me as I tell my story publicly. With a grave misunderstanding of abusive relationships and an unhealthy view of gender roles, he has created an environment where abuse can thrive in the shadows.

The way I was treated in the church pastored by the author of one of the main complementarian manuals on marriage is a perfect example of an epidemic in our culture, one that for the sake of so many innocent women and children, must end.

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167 Comments

  • We need more true testimonies like this. The church needs to wake up. I think God is doubly displeased with spiritual leaders who abuse their power.

  • I’ll be praying for both of you. This wasn’t the easiest post to put out there for both of you and the comments, fiery darts, and all other manner of ill will are going to be headed your way. Hugging you both for bravery.

  • Keep speaking truth! God will use you to help other women who have been hurt by this doctrine, and by predators who know how to manipulate girls and women with it. We must bring this sin to the light. I pray this post is read over and over again and that God’s healing will take place through these words. God bless you. Stay strong and hang on to Jesus.

  • Natalie,
    Thank you for your courage in writing this. I grew up in a church exactly like you described. Actually, even more strict than that. While I was never abused physically, I can relate to the other twisted behavior you wrote about. Spiritual and emotional abuse is a huge problem in complementarianism. I thank God for the people that helped me find my way to the truth of His love and acceptance.
    Keep shining the light of truth!!

  • Your courage through this entire episode has been absolutely inspiring. Yours is a voice that refuses to be silenced. I cannot imagine what you have experienced, but hope and pray that I would show the courage that you have. In the very least, as a man, I am honored to be taught and inspired by you. Bless you, and thank you Jori for increasing her voice.

  • God bless you in your long term healing. God bless your babies and God bless and restore all the things this monster took from you. Hugs and love from another survivor.

    • Mary, thank you for your kind words. I have been restored more than I ever thought possible, and then some. Hugs and love right back to you.

  • May the Lord have mercy on Doug Wilson. Being a male feminist I find the church’s stance on wife serving repulsive. I find it more repulsive that a man would think that he exercises authority over all women. Sad but true. some believe that. I have personal experience in my marriage of women being held back. How come Ephesians 5:21 is overlooked. Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ….. May you be richly blessed in your ministry

          • Doug Wilson was quite upset that my father decided to go to the police without first hearing his ‘plan’. His desire was that this would be handled as quietly as possibly and within the church. He strongly discouraged my parents from taking the case to trial, he know claims that is because of how embarrassing a trial would have been for my family because of my parent’s “foolishness”. In the end, my parents took his advice, in a sense anyway, and the case went to mediation rather than trial. My abuser got off with no sex-offender label, a few months in a nearby penitentiary, and lots of loving support and visitors from the church. A handful of people from my former church say they thought he was ‘a skunk’, but those close to him say he was warmly welcomed.

  • As a teenager, I was stalked by an older man in my church instead of sexually abused, but these attitudes are very familiar to me. I was also in a complementarian church and butted up against those judgements. Somehow, even when we’re terrified, we’re always “asking for it”. It’s encouraging to me to see more women speaking out about what happens inside these churches. I believe that silence is our greatest enemy. We are far from alone in our experiences. http://www.kristyburmeister.com/thing/

    • I second what Jory said, thanks for your bravery in sharing your story. I’m sorry that you suffered in this way. Silence is indeed an enemy. I really believe the tide is beginning to turn as more victim’s find the strength to stand up, cast aside shame, and tell their story.

  • I think Natalie is confusing terms. She’s describing marriage roles as gender roles. All of the complementarian standards she mentions, while partially accurate (only partially, note), are roles for marriage, not between the sexes generally. So to criticize complementarianism for a twisted abuse of what it actually teaches is hardly helpful, as far as critique goes.

    • Carson – Doug Wilson believes men to have authority over women in both the home and church (and most likely even in society). Women cannot be over men in his world. Period.

      I would encourage you to do more research. “Gender roles” go beyond marriage in many complementarian circles, including that of John Piper, Wayne Grudem, and Matt Chandler.

      God bless.

      • But what kind of authority? Not all authority is the same. The authority a pastor has over a congregation is very different from the authority a man has over his wife. Women can have authority over men in certain roles: most of the teachers at Logos School are female, to take on prominent example. I get told what to do by the NSA secretary frequently: not a problem. When Nancy asks Doug to take out the trash, he does.

        You’re using the single term “authority” between multiple contexts that necessarily have very different definitions for that word. Careful defining of that term can easily change the fruitfulness of your debate.

        • To roughly quote DW from a recent book, “A woman is not simply a caretaker of the house: she is a despot in it. If she says your boots get taken off in the mud room, you darn well better listen, because it’s her house.”

          • Wilson believes men to have the final spiritual authority over women in the home and church. I find this theology problematic.

          • It’s nice that you’re revising your previous statement of Doug’s position, which was hardly accurate. Spiritual authority is definitely different from “all” authority. The part that bothers me is how I had to ask you to clarify what was clearly an inaccurate overstatement. To get anywhere in a discussion, fair representation of your opponent is key.

          • So how is spiritual authority different from other forms, Carson? I’d like to know how that works practically.

            I believe, spiritually speaking, that because you are a male, God gives you authority in your own home but everywhere else, He calls you to remain under women’s governance. It’s because your original ancestor was deceived. Also because of the angels which after all, are spiritual beings.

            You are authorized to run all home appliances, clean on your own schedule, govern the daily affairs of the children, and choose what to grow in the garden. Gardening is particularly excellent because everyone needs nutritious meals which need serving when the woman comes home hungry. Sex is also required, when she needs it. God is everywhere, yes? All has a spiritual aspect.

            The woman must manage the money because she is responsible to God for how it is spent. For the same reason, she decides how the kids are educated, but as a help-meet, your ideas are wanted.

            If you love God, you will spiritually submit with joy and grace. You are certainly of peer worth to women, in every way. There’s only a difference in roles. And if a woman, in her spiritual role, ever finds that she must die for you, as Christ did for the church, she will do so with alacrity.

          • oh good! She gets to be in charge of whether one should track mud into the house. Her house, her job. That’s a good way to get out of housework, too, I guess.

    • Of course, Carson, many complimentarians would say these are marriage roles. BUT the point, at least partly, that it is all too easy to use the comp lines in an abusive way. What it actually teaches is not that an adult should abuse a teen. So why was she not supported when she eventually spoke up? Isn’t that a very important question?

    • Carson, you are blind and you are applying willful ignorance to Doug’s bloviations. Reality is not an academic exercise. The harm Doug Wilson has done to specific people is self-evident. If you aren’t willing to acknowledge Doug’s absolute failure as a human being, then you’re useless.

    • No, Natalie, is not confusing terms. In the 1990s the Comp promoters decided to take over the seminaries, teach pastors-to-be Comp doctrine, and infiltrate the churches with the stealth takeover of Comp. They have nearly succeeded. It’s not just marriages that are a mess with Comp – records amount of divorce (that exceed that of atheists), but even older, committed Christians (including elderly Christians), conservatives (and that includes women) are fed up and leaving the churches in droves and becoming The Dones, the unchurches. They are totally fed up with this heresy and authoritarianism.

    • Carson, In Comp churches and families there are records amounts of:
      * divorce (that exceed that of even atheists, Barna study)
      * incest
      *sex abuse of non-family members
      * domestic violence

      Certainly every belief spectrum (political, religious, etc) has its problems. But Comp attracts predatory, dangerous control freaks because it gives them a “get out of jail card” you’re a man nonsense.

      And finally Comp is heresy, based on the Scriptural gymnastics of the Eternal Subordination of the Son.

    • So, do you feel this is a healthy, life-giving way to love a wife?
      “I was to submit to the man and obey him, meet his sexual needs with a joyful spirit, respectfully follow the rules set for my behavior in and out of the home, and tailor my future plans to meet the needs of my family, with the goal of eventually filling the home with offspring. Any additional interests of mine were an afterthought, something I could pursue in my spare time but without any real focus, as they weren’t part of what Christ called me to do as a Godly woman.”
      Perhaps you do not. But, I think Natalie knew these were marriage roles. And, the abuser used them to teach her how to become proper “wife material”

    • Hi Dorcas, he did not go on to be a pastor. He went on to get married and was eventually charged by the State of Idaho for Felony Attempted Strangulation of his (now ex) wife. He abused her terribly for the few years they were married. He continues to attempt deceiving those who remain in his life. But thank goodness he is not a pastor.

  • Doug Wilson is a sociopath and a narcissist. I get really sick of reading smug, self-righteous comments from his sycophants defending his sociopathic behavior as being somehow “theologically correct.” Seriously, if you so-called “Christians” who defend Doug’s slime bag behavior can’t see him for what he is then you need to get yourselves a psychiatric evaluation. In the meantime, shut up already.

    • Dash, this is really mean, and not helpful. It is also abusive to those who really struggle in mental illness when you belittle others this way. Not cool, and using bully tactics makes me doubt what you are saying.

    • Hi Dash. I realize you are frustrated with Doug Wilson, but please don’t attack people, but rather, their theology. Thanks for helping me to maintain an environment of respect.

      • You’ll have to pardon me, then, if your blog is not the place for me to express myself or engage in genuine dialogue. Do you propose that we defend ourselves from ISIS by attacking their theology, and not their behavior or their obvious atrocities? I see very little difference between Doug Wilson and the new ISIS caliphate, the only difference being that Doug hasn’t presided over anyone’s execution yet, so far as we know.

        I’m sorry that you feel that honesty and disrespect are somehow the same thing. They aren’t. Good luck. I will refrain from further comment here, and for the record people like you merely muddy the waters. Decisive statements are called for, not soft fluffy feel-good rhetoric. I’m angry with Doug Wilson and the CREC for reasons that have nothing to do with theology, and if I can’t say it here then I’ll say it elsewhere.

        • Yes Dash, I think there are other blogs that will tolerate direct insults, but I don’t on myself or on other’s. God bless as you sort through your anger. I want my blog to be a safe place for everyone and for me that means not allowing attacking people, even people one is mad at.

  • I don’t understand how this argument is supposed to refute complementarianism. No complementarian I have ever met would condone abuse like this. I might as well point to a feminist who abused someone in the name of feminism and proclaim feminism to be wrong.

    • b. Martin Doug Wilson continues to condone the abuse by referring to the situation as a relationship. And the abuser was training under him so….

      • That is still not an argument against complementarianism. Ask any complementarian author if their theology should be used to abuse kids, and I know what their answer would be. I could tell you stories of lesbians who were abused by their partners in the name of feminism. Does that mean that feminism is wrong?

        • then why won’t Doug Wilson an author of a book detailing how to live this way call this abuse? Also it says played into. It does not say completely caused my abuse.

          • he sometimes calls it abuse and other times a relationship. So which one is it? His most recent statements to the church have referred to it as a relationship.

          • Doesn’t Doug qualify the abuse word by saying it was abuse, under the law? It seems in church/moral addressing, he is unwilling to call it abuse. He acknowledges that legally, it was statutory rape. Does he believe it would have been wrong, if the wedding vows had been said already?

          • Erin,
            Doug has used the word abuse in the past and does in the present. As far as how marriage changes things, Doug and the elders of Christ church have fully supported wives in separating (and divorce ) from husbands in cases of abuse.

          • Good. I am very glad that the church leaders support wives in divorcing from abusive husbands. Do the elders have to verify and determine that they believe it is abuse, in their eyes, before they support her?

            Do you find these lines to be an accurate representation of the church teaching, if in the context of marriage?
            “I was to submit to the man and obey him, meet his sexual needs with a joyful spirit, respectfully follow the rules set for my behavior in and out of the home, and tailor my future plans to meet the needs of my family, with the goal of eventually filling the home with offspring. Any additional interests of mine were an afterthought, something I could pursue in my spare time but without any real focus, as they weren’t part of what Christ called me to do as a Godly woman.”

          • Erin,
            The church supports a separation if a wife feels she is in abusive situation, and this is not limited to physical abuse.
            As to your second question, no. That quote paints a very narrow view of marriage, and in particular, the role of the wife.

          • Heather, how did that work for Wight’s wife, then? How much abuse was she required to take before a bunch of men-at-a-meeting approved separation? Abusers generally work themselves up to strangling—it’s a process, after all.

            Leaving aside the immorality for a sec, this is a profoundly impractical procedure, like needing a group-o’-guys’ approval before letting an ambulance head out to a 911 call.

            And why is such a procedure considered spiritually correct? Because God doesn’t want a woman to make up her own mind? God, who created her fully capable?

            I am also curious about why the Wight marriage even happened, considering what he’d already done to a 13 + girl, for years? In same way, how could the Sitler marriage have been approved? I’ve been told that women in your circles enjoy more support and protection than anyone.

            So look, from your church fellowship, two horribly-handed cases have bubbled to the surface. How many others lie buried? Certainly good results are loudly warmly celebrated, and right to do so, too. But don’t you wonder what’s hidden under “confidentiality”? Have you heard any scurrying under the singing?

            Your father-in-law makes it dead obvious that women must constantly sacrifice so he can keep his pride of intellect. My father was like that, too, Heather. Also a Reformed pastor. As an older woman looking back, I see it for what it was, appallingly childish and deeply sinful.

            To allow it to continue is good for nothing.

          • Patrice,
            I am not a member of the church the Wight’s attended so I can’t speak authoritatively about how their case was handled (though I have much respect for many involved). I know that Christ Church supports (and more than that would encourage) immediate separation if a wife reports abuse or fears for her safety. There is no requirement whatsoever for an elders meeting before action is taken.
            As for why the Wight marriage happened, to the best of my understanding, she was not a member of the church and their relationship was not begun there. They had a Justice of the Peace marriage before he began his time in jail and Jamin informed the pastors after the fact. This had not been done with either the counsel or blessing of the Church They did eventually have a church wedding but they were already legally married. My husband and I were appalled and concerned when we heard about the engagement (though we later learned they had already married) and said as much at the time to the only two people we were close to who also considered themselves friends and supporters of Jamin. Their response was that we were too judgmental.
            The fact that you are just reading about the Sitler and Wight siuations now (along with a lot of half truths and lies) does not mean the cases were buried. Authorities were immediately involved in both cases as soon as they were reported. The church community was informed.
            I honestly don’t know what you mean by your last paragraph. I did not grow up in the reformed tradition and yet I saw some form of abuse in most every church I’ve attended. However, this is the only church I’ve been a part of that has been so proactive in addressing abuse when it has “bubbled to the surface,” regardless of what you read on the internet…

          • Heather – love that you are sharing your side of the story. Thanks for doing that. I think it is healthy for us to have these conversations.

            My greatest concern with Christ Church is that men are ultimately in charge of women in the home and church. Common sense tells me this is dangerous for women, as it creates an imbalance of power, rights, and confidence to speak up against a man who may turn out not to be such a good guy. It seems you were fortunate to be raised by a man (and marry a husband) who did not use their power to hurt you and I am grateful for that.

            But,your church is fostering an atmosphere where bad men can hurt naive women very, very easily (women who are taught from birth that men are supposed to protect them and that men have the “right” answers and that we should follow men).

            And while your church may do the right thing and report to the authorities, the damage has already been done and a girl/woman is left to deal with the abuse of power for the rest of her life. Can you not see how this could turn many women away from Christ? Sure, seems like you and your sisters lucked out. You were protected. But what about all the women who did not luck out? What about Natalie? What about the other girl in your church who was abused? What about the Duggar girls? What about all the girls in the extreme comp camps that have been abused and are too afraid to speak up for fear of “not submitting” or “questioning authority” or “disobeying the Bible?”

            I know you are smart and I know you get this. You have to see the dangers to some degree. At least, I hope you do.

          • Ach, Heather, it is hard to be part of the family, I’m sure. Your father-in-law speaks out of both sides of his mouth and uses both sides of his pen in his writings. It’s remarkable how he can do that and no one near him notices, as if magic.

            If I could ask something of you, it would be that you check to see if I am correct about this. Perhaps you will notice it. And if so, consider why it might be.

            I wish you well, Heather.

          • I have read in both a book by Rachel and by Nancy, that a woman’s calling is to support her husband’s calling. How do you see that playing out?
            In my memory (and full disclosure, I got rid of the book, and cannot go back to check if I remember right…) Rachel actually said in the “Loving the Little Years” that a woman does not have a calling apart from her husband and children. Am I remembering wrong? Or would you just say that you are not agreeing with Rachel and Nancy on this point? Or?
            I believe in marital love and unity and oneness. And, my husband and I both know that we are called to lay down our life for each other. But, we are also each called to lift up the other and foster good life for the other. So, in this mutuality, both parties are brought toward growth and increased life.

        • no one abuses “in the name of feminism”. That’s completely absurd. There is no comparison possible between an idea of women being equal and the idea of men being the “head”. Any situation where men hold unchecked power over others is ripe for abuse. That’s just common sense. There is nothing to commend men over women. People are individuals and should always be treated as such. No one should be relegated to a role based on their gender. It does no one any good and does many much evil.

        • You may be listening to what complementarians say, not what they do. Too many millions of women have experienced men like Doug Wilson, their local elders and pastor, their spouses, etc.–who would always say they condemn abuse–nevertheless cover it up and support abusers instead of victims when abuse actually comes out.

          This is a reality. It is more common than otherwise. The question we’re faced with is whether to believe and support women and children about what’s happening to them, as we always say we’ll do when it comes to abuse, or whether we’ll support their abusers and the male power structure that supports these abuses while claiming to be against them.

          Speaking here from unfortunate personal experience and decades of involvement with the lives of women and children whose experiences are, it is apparent, mostly invisible to men in the church.

    • Hi B Martin. This post does not say that complementarianism condones child abuse; but rather, the doctrine fosters a dangerous environment for girls and women.

      • But the problem remains…I could come up with just as many stories showing that feminism is a doctrine that fosters a dangerous environment for girls and women.

        • Really? I can’t think one. Feminism seeks to protect women in girls; we are human, so our efforts may not be perfect. But our whole mission is to foster safe environments for girls and women. We do not teach one-way-submission, ever.

          • You have never heard of someone mis-representing feminism through abuse? Lesbians who abuse their partners in the name of feminism? Single moms coerced into abortions in the name of feminism? I’m sure you would say that these are distortions of feminism, well this blog post represents a distortion of complementarianism. If this argument works, then I should stop drinking beer because some people get drunk. I should stop watching movies because some movies are porn. If we’re discussing whether or not complementarianism is Biblical, then let’s use the Bible. Pulling out an abusive situation that we would all condemn does not prove or disprove the merits of complementarianism, just as one bad feminist does not disprove feminism.

          • B Martin – no, I have never heard of lesbians abusing their partners in the name of feminism. I have, however, heard of many complementarians denouncing Christian feminism and feminism in general because they believe it demeans men. Feminism is not about being lesbian. Feminism is about equality for women, as humans. You seem very committed to complementarianism and to its defense. Versus having empathy for the victim. Which is kinda the point of her story.

          • When did feminism = lesbians? And even my dear lesbian friend says the world needs feminism because the world needs the voice of women, whatever sound they may bring.

          • I didn’t equate feminism with lesbianism. I was giving examples of feminists doing bad things in the name of feminism (and lesbian partner abuse in the name of feminism happens regularly). My only point was that a bad person who claims to be a complementation does not disprove complementarianism any more than a bad person who claims to be a feminist disproves feminism.

          • Uh, receipts on lesbian partner abuse in the name of feminism, please. Because while obviously lesbian domestic violence does occur, I have NEVER heard of it being done under the guise of feminism. As a matter of fact, lesbian domestic violence is often dismissed for the exact opposite reason: namely, the idea that relationships between women aren’t taken seriously to begin with, and anyway, we women are so weak and delicate, how could we possibly abuse anyone? It’s the same reason why female-on-male abuse isn’t taken seriously either. It’s yet another function of patriarchy. Not feminism.

    • I don’t know if I would compare complementarianism and feminism. One is a specific theology, based on certain Bible passages read from a specific viewpoint. The other is a movement started to support women and their rights as human beings. If I was going to do a compare and contrast, I would use complementarianism and egalitarianism.

    • Even if it does not refute complementarianism in your mind, it’d be foolish to not heed the warnings of atrocities like this. Even purest, most correct doctrine can be corrupted and twisted for evil use. As A.W. Tozer said, “The devil is a better theologian than any of us and is a devil still.” If you are complementarian, read this, take the lesson to heart and guard against this sort of abuse from happening in your churches and schools

    • I don’t hear this article saying that Complementarians support this, in the way it played out.
      How do you feel about the way the abuser used the lines he had learned at church to squash Natalie and keep her submissive? Can you share how those gender role ideals play out to be life giving, rather than life squashing?
      If the abuser had married Natalie first, and then proceeded in this vein, would things be good, or would you still see them as abusive?
      Specifically, this is the stuff I am referring to – “I was to submit to the man and obey him, meet his sexual needs with a joyful spirit, respectfully follow the rules set for my behavior in and out of the home, and tailor my future plans to meet the needs of my family, with the goal of eventually filling the home with offspring. Any additional interests of mine were an afterthought, something I could pursue in my spare time but without any real focus, as they weren’t part of what Christ called me to do as a Godly woman. This was the foundation my abuser was laying.”

      • Erin, I don’t believe this section is complementary at all, it goes against the very definition of the word “complementary”: “Any additional interests of mine were an afterthought, something I could pursue in my spare time but without any real focus, as they weren’t part of what Christ called me to do as a Godly woman.”
        I would identify myself as a complementarian, but I strongly disagree with this notion. My husband, as my head, continually encourages me to pursue interests of my own. I don’t believe he would have married me if that wasn’t something I was doing even before we met.

        • This is good. Very good!
          It is in keeping with what Nancy Wilson teaches though. So, perhaps what Natalie is referring to is the teaching she specifically got.
          I believe that men and women are complementary, by the way! I just don’t believe that it is an hierarchy thing. 🙂

        • You’re lucky you’re married to one who encourages you to pursue your interests. So many women are not. The fact that your husband chooses to be nice doesn’t support complementarianism, however. To say that one spouse is to submit to the other, but not the other to the one, and then to call that equal, is simply to lie to ourselves. It’s playing games with words.

          Historically this was not a problem because male church leaders based submission on innate female inferiority. Women are lesser, and less able, therefore they must submit. This was false, but it at least had internal logic.

          Our modern version is much more awkward to defend because we no longer claim women are inferior. Now we have to figure out how to justify female submission *while still saying women and men are equal.* This is awkward, but they’ve figured out a few methods.

          One, they reference “equal in value but different in role.” One role (male’s) is literally over the other, and one role (female’s) is limited while the other isn’t, so this argument is weak, but it’s one they have come up with to rationalize “you’re equal but we just treat you unequally.”

          Two, they call the husband’s role “servant leadership.” This term was created to try to harmonize complementarianism with scripture, which gives a number of instructions to husbands (“Husbands, do this,” “Husbands, do that”) but never once in the entire Bible tells them to be in charge of their wives.

          Three, we say that men and women are equals but they’re very very different and that justifies their having differing roles. This inherently says that women are more childlike and in need of someone to be in charge of them. It also ignores all the credible solid research done on men and women (by researchers all over the ideological spectrum) that tells us that the differences *among* a single sex are much greater than the differences *between* the sexes. It’s just easier to ignore that, and reality, and just declare that men and women are totally different. Some say “opposite,” as if men and women have nothing in common at all. No shared humanity. Just a humanity that’s in charge, and a humanity that is to comply.

          It is hard to come up with rationales to support an entire theology constructed on husbands being in charge when there’s plenty of biblical commands to husbands, but no command to husbands in the entire Bible tells them to make decisions for their wives.

  • Thank you for sharing your story. I agree that conplementarianism creates a dangerous imbalance of power which makes girls and young women vulnerable to male presumption to have their will carry more weight and a spiritual narcissism that is not healthy for anyone. I hope your story helps to expose the dangers of this system of belief.

  • Thank you for sharing your story, Natalie. I wish your experience was better. Props to Jory for giving space for people to hear from a victim of abuse.
    I tried going to your blog but it “has been removed.” These sorts of conversations have legal ramifications, I guess. Best wishes.

  • Thanks for sharing this story. Sadly, this follows the same pattern of so many other stories I’ve heard, where victims are discredited, blamed, publicly shamed, or forced to forgive their abuser, while the majority of people stand with the perpetrator. What I think many churches don’t realize is that successful abusers are master manipulators. Not only do they groom children, but they also groom parents, church leaders, and everyone around them so that they seem like the last person you’d expect. And if they ever are found out, they just manipulate people to their side. I think churches need a lot more education on how to prevent and detect child abuse. Churches are prime targets for abusers, and I would suspect that a complementarian church may just their job easier. It may unintentionally do part of the grooming process for them, making children more vulnerable to the advances of abusers.

    • This is so true, Noel. There are usually many victims outside of the person who directly suffered abuse – many others are deceived and made fools of. Education is KEY.

  • While I don’t agree with this author that women should have roles as pastors; I think God’s word makes that clear. However, I do see women’s roles in the church as equal to man’s. “Different roles” does not translate to “unequal roles” to God.

    With that being said I do agree that something is not right in way “complementarianism” plays out in the church. Sin though is the problem not necessarily the doctrine.

    Far too many of these incidents are occurring in our reformed churches. These and abused wives. So something needs to change. Blaming it on the female is as old as Adam and Eve. Noel is so right in her assessment (comment below). so I won’t repeat what she says but I echo my voice with hers in agreement!

    • Hi Tara…In the past the usage of the words “Different but equal” or “separate but equal” never turns out so good for the more marginalized of the two groups. Really, it ends up not being equal at all.

  • Comp doctrine is heresy. Its proponents planned to take over the seminaries in the 1990s and from their take over the churches. They have done a fairly good job. And what are the results? The Southern Baptists (SBC) which has promoted the insufferable Comp doctrine/heresy the most now has the highest divorce rate among any group, even higher than the divorce rate for atheists.

    Additionally, there are record amounts of incest & sex abuse cases being reported in Comp families and churches. The big name proponents of it Comp doctrine, including Bill Gothard and Doug Phillips have been felled by sex abuse scandals, their own that they are alleged to have perpetrated. As I said to my former authoritarian, Comp promoting, spiritually abusive NeoCal pastors, “Why didn’t you tell our church that you were shoving the doctrines of men, and specifically the doctrines of boundaryless sex offenders down our throats? Of course they espouse Comp, look what it afford them! They get a *free pass* at predation.”

    Finally, Comp isn’t just between married couples and how they choose to live out their marriage. Comp impacts those at churches, where its taught, including women. One man rightly called it “Shehad”, for the NeoCals’ War on Women (the word sounds like Jihad). So true. Women are told to “obey and submit”, can’t hold leadership positions. It’s ridiculous. It’s something out of the page book of radical Islam. Freedom in Jesus? Not in these sick churches with their man-made heresies.

  • I’ve just had some back and forth emails with a local Christian radio station regarding this sort of doctrine perpetrated on one of their programs. They are not interested in engaging with the stories I have to tell them, of which Natalie’s is the norm. It is so damning, and all the more so because the people involved are unwilling to allow for anything other than what they already believe.

    My heart goes out to you, Natalie.

  • I feel the need to put in a good word for my home town of Moscow. For the most part, we are a pleasant small town where local agriculturalists and the University of Idaho happily co-exist and local drivers often surprize newcomers by politely yielding to pedestrians. Most of the time we get along fine by using the judge not rule. Sadly, Doug Wilson and his followers seem to want to bring the culture war conflicts into our small town for their own selfish reasons.

  • pity that the second part of the lesson was not followed by the abuser.. and that is to cherish the woman and to lay down his life and protect her from all harm.. seems like predators always seek positions of influence and power and feast upon the weak..

    • S, yes it’s sad. And unfortunately, many churches are safe havens for these predators. When grace & forgiveness are confused with trust, criminals can smell it from miles away and come lurking in to take advantage. That’s why it’s so imperative that churches and communities at large educate themselves on how to spot predators, how to step in and help put an end to abusive situations, and how to support the victims.

  • So proud of you Natalie. Went through similar mistreatment in several churches. The gifts they tried to shame you with as “ungodly” will be the gifts that liberate the church.
    Female version of Moses.
    To God be the Glory!

  • Sexual predators will twist ANY system to persuade their victim to cooperate with them.
    I used to read Doug Wilson’s blog from time to time – I haven’t done so since learning of this case about six months ago. He should have tossed his “seminarian” out on his ear.

  • Ugh – this post bothers me. This seems anecdotal and not reflective in any way for people who hold to a more complementarian view of ministry/marriage. This was a case of a pedophile using his position to find a victim. Simple as that.

    • Patrick, would you say this is a fairly accurate picture of teachings for complementarian marriage?

      “I was to submit to the man and obey him, meet his sexual needs with a joyful spirit, respectfully follow the rules set for my behavior in and out of the home, and tailor my future plans to meet the needs of my family, with the goal of eventually filling the home with offspring. Any additional interests of mine were an afterthought, something I could pursue in my spare time but without any real focus, as they weren’t part of what Christ called me to do as a Godly woman. ”

      In my experience, it is not a viewpoint held across the broad spectrum of comps. But, it is far more common than many would like to think. And, it is harming a lot of women’s souls.
      This is direct teaching from this particular church that Natalie grew up in. And, it readied her to listen to this man’s manipulation of her.

    • “This was a case of a pedophile using his position to find a victim.”

      If this were limited to Natalie’s abuser, then I might agree with you. But her post makes it clear how her church was instrumental in not only fostering the abuse, but handwaving it after the fact.

  • Ugh- Patrick, can you understand that patriarchal/complementarian churches set up a safe haven for pedophiles to troll about. When you have a system that is BASED on women SUBMITTING AND OBEYING you will have abuse. When you have a system wherein men, by simply being male, have RULE AND AUTHORITY OVER WOMEN, you will have abuse. And women in those patriarchal churches do not have a voice in the church, they can not have any ecclesiastical role in the church, they generally can not vote or have any say in the way things are run in the church. In short a good woman is a silent woman. A perfect set up for the pedophile. A perfect storm for a woman.

    The Bible is full of stories; stories tell us truth through word pictures. That is what Natalie has done; she has told her story of abuse from a pedophile precisely because the perv was in a safe haven for pedophiles- a patriarchal church.

    How’s this for a not story:
    SMASH THE PATRIARCHY

  • I suppose I should start by saying that I’m married to a beautiful, sassy woman whom I love and have responsibility for. I wouldn’t have her be any less sassy. And she and I both have an understanding of complementary roles of the sexes–which I would count as different from male dominance. I need my wife’s support, and the idea that she needs to submit to my leadership responsibility does NOT mean that she must obey and satisfy my whims, or even all my commands. And rarely will it come to command: like any good rule-making authority, I must consider her input. Must.

    Does this make us egalitarian? Not quite. The lines of responsibility fall to me, because if we face indecision or a tie needs to be broken, then I have an authority (not a divine one certainly) to pick our path. There are times when she pushes me to make the decision for both of us, and when that happens, it’s my responsibility for good or ill what comes of it. I should also explain that when we were dating, this was not the state of things. I had responsibilities to account for myself, but not her. Now as a married couple, I am responsible for both of us. This counts taking the blame for when she or I make a foolish promise that we can’t keep.

    In Natalie’s story (and I’ve been following this one for a while, having lived in Moscow for a few recent years, but not in the thick of it) I certainly see a complementarian attitude twisted into male dominion. Is there a difference? I think there is a critical nuance in that church, that is not in other communities, an overemphasis on the male authority. How about the male responsibility for use of that authority? How about owning up to mistakes and confessing sins, and facing just punishment?

    Over both men and women in the church is Christ, and ultimately we must all submit to Him in love. I cannot controvert Christ, even as a husband, or in the future as a father. Obedience to him will trump all other acts. And unmarried women have Christ, not a husband, though they may have fathers with parental authority. And men are answerable.

    I don’t want to sound dogmatic, and this is just a write-byte (understand that the atmosphere at Natalie’s church created the danger of lurking pedophiles… yes, plural). The strings can be tricky to sort out. So if there are questions on my view of what complementary roles means, please ask them, and maybe we can figure it together.

    • Hi Jaron. You seem to have a really good heart and you seem to really love/honor your wife. So thanks for sharing.

      I have to disagree with your view of “I have the final responsibility.” Leadership is responsibility and responsibility is leadership. If you have the final responsibility, you are the final boss. Therefore, there is a hierarchy in your home. It seems you take your leadership role seriously and try to really love your wife, which I am glad for, but you are not Christ and you will make mistakes (I hope that does not hurt your feelings..not my heart at all).

      Of course I don’t know your wife, but some women who are not natural born leaders and are married to natural born leaders, find complementarian theology (the safer kind you live out) comforting. So, if you are the natural born leader out of the two of you, then of course…lead on! But, some women are stronger leaders than their husbands naturally and I don’t believe we should squash these leadership gifts. Some women don’t mind equal responsibility and even thrive on it.

      This issue with comp theology is that it does not work for everyone. It does not help all marriages to succeed.

      Egalitarian theology in marriage works for everyone because people lead based of their giftings, not based on their gender and stereotypes that are often untrue. It is also a sound doctrine, that is based on a high view of scripture. It also never leads to “Doug Wilson”or “Josh Duggar” type faith communities that foster atmospheres for abuse of girls and women. It is based in freedom in Christ, mutual love, and mutual respect. It is simply a better way for us to move forward as a Church holistically.

      Also, for the sake of evangelism, it is a better way. Non-Christian women under 30 are seeing women running for president, are highly educated, and are seeking high level job positions. Many of these women are unchurched and to tell them that they have to submit to men as their superiors at home or wherever would sound so ridiculous and out of touch with real life. I know we as the Church do not seek to follow the ways of culture when they are sinful, but in this case, we can align with culture and see more souls saved. I truly believe Jesus was a feminist who fought for equal rights/voice for women.

      God bless.

      • Thank you for listening Jory, I appreciate your thoughtful response. I’m interested in discussing responsibility and leadership more:

        I think it may be more accurate to say that leadership may flow from responsibility. Responsibility seems to exist first in my mind. And I think that men are responsible even when they did not take a leading role. Biblically, I’d point out Adam and Abram, both of whom properly faced blame for the forbidden fruit and Ishmael’s behavior, respectively. They didn’t respond rightly: Sadly a common sin by us Y-chromosomers! They should have admitted they were wrong instead of passing the buck, but their attempt to shift blame doesn’t make it so. It was still their moral responsibility.

        From an egalitarian mindset, if a woman has that same underlying moral responsibility, then in consistency, could she rightly try to pass the buck? As a complementarian, I’d count Adam and Abram more fundamentally at fault than Eve and Sarai ever were. I’m unwilling to let my wife be exposed to moral hazards without my protection; I’m there to take the blame so she can be spared from it.

        This is what Christ did for us. Our sins were not his fault, but he took them upon himself as his responsibility, and paid the price on our heads. He did not lord his authority over us, but he asked that if we love him, to do what he commands. I’m certainly not Christ, but I can take a Christ-like attitude and role in our marriage.

        As expressed in our lives, this means I have a comfort that if anything goes wrong, she doesn’t face the music… I do (even if she had taken the initiative–because my call is self-sacrificial love). My authority isn’t a sword for me; it’s a shield for her. Thus my directives are not commands per se, but rather requests to her in love to consider her actions in light of my deep moral responsibility, even if things aren’t my fault.

        Perhaps the point is that I think complementarian theology is a broader and more adaptable concept than you may give it credit. In our home, that means we can split tasks, and that we even have spheres of influence, and one of those splits/spheres is that she does the bills and budget. She’s a phenomenal math teacher! Why wouldn’t we have her do the budget? She’s great at it.

        I don’t think this makes a husband a superior–I think that’s too lofty a title. He’s not a dictator, he’s not a commander: he’s the man who can and will be blamed even if it wasn’t his fault. So I think the husband is more like the senior moral partner: moral liability is accounted to him, and she is entitled to the profits of that protection without the cost of blame. It’s up to her whether or not she will act with that in mind or disregard it. I presume to explain the role of a husband without trying to explain or dictate the role of a wife, because it is not my place.

        I hope that demonstrates more about our relationship. Thoughts? Disagreement?

        • Jaron,
          You sound like a lovely guy, and not being a churchgoer maybe I’m not in your sphere of discussion anyway, but I can’t imagine wanting or expecting my beloved husband to be morally responsible for me. Whatever consequences I’ve earned through my behavior or moral failings are for me to face. I would be humiliated and angry to have him face my music. How am I a worthy partner if I can’t handle the consequences of my own choices?

          I would hope that he would tell me if he thought I was crossing a moral line, because I value his understanding and I know he’s on my side. And if I do wrong, I hope he will be able to still love and stick with me as I would him. I would claim equal right to shield him from misfortune and pain if I can, but our independent moral decisions belong to us alone.

          • Hello westerner,
            I think this dynamic is driven by a man’s instinct to protect, not necessarily by any expectations on the woman’s part. That is to say, I think he feels this need to take bullets for her even if she doesn’t say anything. A man can be responsible for things he did not personally do. And a man taking responsibility for any faults his wife commits should not be a punitive emotional measure but only a protective measure. I think this is critical for any submission to one another in marriage to flow only out of love and gracious pleading with one another.

            For example, let’s say I think my wife is going to cross a moral line she shouldn’t. I ask her not to out of respect for me and my moral responsibility. Now she, being her own person, can either honor my request or not; she has free will. Maybe she’s right and I’m wrong: then I must give her credit, when it turns out I was wrong. If instead she was wrong and didn’t refrain from crossing the line, then I take the blame. Either she does not recognize that she is wrong, and then I am making an unrecognized self-sacrifice still (which should be reward enough in itself for a godly man), or she realizes she was wrong and I’ve taken the hurt for her because of it. At this point, I do not say anything to rub it in: this is important, because I already know that the damage done to me is consequence enough for her. It would be wrong of me to emotionally manipulate her. I am satisfied to know that she has been protected.

            Okay, so, are there limits to this? Well, if my wife commits an egregious felony (like mass murder… which she would not do by the way! she’s very sweet and not murderous), I don’t know that this completely applies. But submission to me is not mere rote obedience: it is, in fact, more like what you said–valuing his understanding and knowing that he’s on your side, expressed in honoring his requests about moral issues. There are certain things he simply can’t protect you from, such as when he doesn’t know there is something to protect against, or when events move too fast, or too publicly to take any open blame in your stead.

            Is there moral blame reserved for my wife in a situation where she disobeys? Perhaps, but I’m not going to trumpet those facts to anyone. To all outside of our relationship, we are fundamentally one. Personally I will give no one cause to doubt that fact, and everyone needs to know that if they want to harm my wife, they must go through me first.

            My protection of my wife is not about how worthy she is, and I think that is a security for her. It doesn’t matter if she is worthy or not, because I love her, however worthy or unworthy she may be. She doesn’t need to worry about being worthy, because my love for her is an indispensable fact. I’ve chosen her, and I’m not going to un-choose her. She doesn’t need to live up to become my wife, because she already IS my wife, and she always will be.

            Because everyone is called to love like Christ did, there is some crossover in this practice between husbands and wives. But between husband and wife I think there is a deeper and more instinctual need in men to love women like this. I even think this is why young boys usually play “war” and not “house” with their toys: they are hardwired to protect more than they are to cultivate.

            If this is not complementarianism, then maybe I’m not really a complementarian, but I do think it is at least biblical. I hope it portrays Christ as a husband should portray him. And if it does, then that will be enough for me. And I trust my wife to try to portray Christ as a wife should portray him too.

          • “For example, let’s say I think my wife is going to cross a moral line she shouldn’t. I ask her not to out of respect for me and my moral responsibility.”

            That’s the rub for me. My moral responsibility is my own, to be sorted out in my own relationship with God. Any other formulation makes me a being whose morality has to be mediated through someone who “knows better.” The idea that my husband understands morality in general better than I do and is therefore responsible for mine is just weird to me–it smacks of the whole “weaker vessel” idea, which I reject entirely. I don’t want someone shielding me from the reasonable consequences of my own moral actions because that’s not how it is supposed to work for rational adults of any gender. I see it as belittling, however lovingly intended.

            I honestly don’t know whether men are more hard-wired to protect. I think a lot of people play war because they are drawn to dominance. Certainly if we all did less war-playing in real life, fewer women and children would become collateral damage. When I think of examples of hard-wired instincts to protect, I see as much in mother love, the infamous mama bear, as in protective husbands and fathers.

            And what about your wife? Doesn’t she also love you, worthy or not? Didn’t she also vow not to “unchoose” you? Wouldn’t she, shouldn’t she, shield you from harm if you were the one in danger and her abilities allowed?

            My husband is physically stronger than I am and he has a big authoritative voice. I would be grateful to have those attributes deployed on my behalf in a physical confrontation, and I feel sure he would do that, but that is a rare circumstance in most middle-class American lives. I am physically faster and quicker to respond to a new situation than he is. He is grateful when I use those attributes on his behalf. It certainly doesn’t make him seem less manly in my eyes.

            Anyway, it seems we are both lucky in our happy marriages, and I wish you well.

        • Jaron – thanks for your response.

          I take issue with this statement, “So I think the husband is more like the senior moral partner” because it far from true in many Christian homes. There are many Christian homes in which the wife is more of a natural spiritual leader than the husband is. Some women who are natural born spiritual leaders marry men who are natural born spiritual followers. I think this is OK and acceptable. I think it is strange to force people into boxes based off their gender. Society had done it forever. It’s the way of the world, more than the way of God, in my opinion. We should simply let men and women be who they were born to be. I don’t need my husband to be my spiritual mentor because to be honest I think I am closer to God than he is and sit on years of theological education that he does not sit on. He loves God, but I have always been the stronger “spiritually” between the two of us.

          Why would he be my spiritual mentor just because he is “the man” when I am more gifted in this area? I certainly would not want him to fake it. He steps it up in many other areas that he is great at. He is our breadwinner. Not because he is a man, but because he is good at business. You see, sometimes gender roles work, but sometimes they don’t. It is better to let men and women lead based off their personal gifts – not based off gender.

  • I attend Christ Church. Doug Wilson had continually emphasized that a woman is only ever to submit to ONE man: her head. And the head would either be her godly father or her godly husband. Not her brother, boyfriend, teacher, friend, man-she’s-engaged-to, uncle, etc.
    Natalie was young when her awful abuser began to abuse her. Horribly, she transferred her submitting from (partially at least) to this despicable man who abused her in several ways, for several years.
    Natalie should have understood a high view of headship–only due one man.
    Natalie’s story above differs much from the teaching I have been received at Christ Church.
    Strong , fierce, godly woman fill my church. These women are smart, well-read, hard-working, funny, great laughers, beautiful, kind, and loyal–but loyalty to your father or husband never means tolerating abuse.
    Doug Wilson sets a high standard for husbands–teaching and showing by example that they are to revere their wives (brains, skill, and loveliness).
    I’m grateful for my church. And I am empowered by its teachings. I’m so sorry Natalie was hurt–she mentioned vigilantly justice on FB, what if it had existed for her . . . Natalie you didn’t deserve to be maligned, molested, and humiliated by that smooth talking abuser; there is deep hope for you and all those that you are giving a voice to. Christ loves you so much. Praying for you.

    • I have never understood why a woman needs more than her own head. I am a woman and my head works fine, as well as that of any man. Besides, my father and spouse need their heads to manage/work their own lives. It’s not easy being human!

      Having two heads (or more!) overseeing one body/life is asking for chaos. Also its inefficient and nonproductive. There’s a great deal that needs doing in this world.

      Husband your energy, stay focused on the job in front of you, and together we’ll get’r done.

      😉

      • Patrice, it sounds like you are being stumbled by my use of the word “head”. Replace it with servant-leader.
        My husband is my servant leader. I’m grateful he’s good at it, and it’s a joy to be protected, provided for, encouraged, respected, and unconditionally loved by him.

        • I was just being silly because “head” is Christian-speak and not at all descriptive, really. Moreover, it sounds absurd to those outside the walls. ‘Servant leader’ is good, though.

          We differ in that I don’t believe servant-leader is attached to sex/gender. I have covenanted to love all others as myself, thus am (either or both) servant and leader in most places, depending on the situation. I find it a much more engaging and even sometimes surprising way to live than the way I was raised (complementarian before it became a sort-of word.)

          I would like it if you could see how enjoyable it is, but perhaps the female side of the complementarian lifestyle suits how God created you. Either way, I wish you well, Jess.

          • Patrice, I have been the boss if men I. The workplace and certainly there , as the head honcho, I was called as a Christian to be a servant- leader to those reporting to me. We are all called to imitate Christ–our head, and serve the sheep.

          • Erin, this quote is from his 10/28 {Feminism in Denial} blog post: “I take it as a given that all Christian leaders are to be servant-leaders. I think the phrase is a wonderful phrase.”

            And this quote from 8/2012 {The Authority of Servanthood} blog post: “If you want to be a strong leader in your home, then humble yourself. You need to speak with authority in order to deal with problems, but remember, “do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humilty consider others better than yourself. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” Humility means considering your wife and children first and not yourself first.”

    • Hi Jess, I feel your heart and I wish I could follow you that your church is healthy, but I know for a fact that Doug Wilson teaches that women are to submit to men in the home AND THE CHURCH.

      So, women are not just submitting to their husbands and fathers in this faith based community, but also to the lead pastor (male) and elders (male). Since this community is faith based first, women are in complete submission to men in both the church and home.

      This is dangerous.

      One, what if the woman has an abusive father or husband? The teaching to submit will cause that line to be blurred. She will struggle to know how much control is too much control because she was born and raised in the belief that men are supposed to be in control. It is entrenched into her belief system from birth. It is scary stuff. This is why these circles are having these major abuse scandals. These environments are toxic for women and girls. Not everyone will get bit, but why keep girls and women vulnerable? The system of men being in charge of women would only work if men were God – perfect and not capable of sin. But they are not, which is why girls and women must be taught to submit to Christ as her final authority.

      Two, when a girl or woman is abused by a father/husband/whoever, who does she go to? All male pastors and all male elders. These are the ones who have the authority to do something in this type of community. No doubt, a girl or woman would feel better going to another woman, but women in these circles have little to know power to do anything about it. They are in complete submission to men in the home and the Church. When church is a huge part of your life, as in your faith circle, women are constantly answering to men.

      Natalie spoke up and what did her male pastor do? He sat on her abusers side in the courtroom. Sitting on someone’s side is a bold physical declaration. It tells the world who you stand beside (who is your family). Doug chose to stand with the abuser (even if he did ultimately believe he should be jailed and punished), now there is consequences for that choice.

      • Jory, thank you for replying to my comment. I see much in what you wrote that I agree with, most importantly: “girls and women must be taught to submit to Christ as her final authority”.
        In fact, this is what I have been taught at Christ Church. A husband’s or father’s authority doesn’t trump God’s. Further, I would be in deep sin if I disobeyed God in order to obey an unbiblical request or decision of my husband’s.
        Natalie should have recognized red flags (that she has described in helpful detail); for example: a man tells you, “it’s gonna be okay that we extensively fool around before marriage {forget about age of consent, engagement} because once we are married it’ll be alright”. This is exactly 180 degrees from what has been counseled and preached at Christ Church.
        If Natalie’s blog post title here said instead “how my distorted, immature, completely upside down understanding of my church’s teachings on submission and mutual respect led to me feeling forced to submit when I shouldn’t have …”
        Well, that title would be far more accurate.

        You brought up other points in your reply, and while I don’t want to ignore them–I’d rather reply at least part for now; hopefully more later.

        • Jess, I am sure that jory will respond well but I also have something to say to you.

          I can understand disagreeing with this post’s criticism of complementarianism itself. You could write about how complementarian words could be better framed so kids won’t be deceived when the same words are used by an abuser and their pastor. You could delineate and affirm how complementarianism fundamentally differs from abuse. You could even write that complementarianism needs stronger statements against abuse in its definition. And further, how that definition would be better if more time were spent on the man’s responsibilities and less on the women’s role-limitations.

          But what you did instead is “should” a 13 yr-old and that is cruel. Why? Because what Natalie wrote about wasn’t a “fooling around” relationship but was child sexual abuse. There is no choice in such a context. “Should” is a non-functional word.

          Kicking the wounded is a time-honored tradition and it never ever does else than more damage. Please don’t.

          • Patrice, I’m not kicking the wounded–please don’t resort to lumping me in with people that do that; Natalie doesn’t need further victimization; but identifying how to help educate all daughters in the future by learning from the past is, of course, necessary.
            A girl needs to know and be comfortable enforcing appropriate touch, talk, etc. On a small scale:
            I babysat a friend’s 3 year old recently who self-assuredly said she wanted privacy in the bathroom, after I asked her if she needed help. That was good! Confidence with personal boundaries–good!
            You bet Natalie will strive to make sure her daughters know about appropriate physical and verbal interactions. We all should.

          • “Saying that Natalie “should have understood high view of headship” is a little bit of kicking the wounded.” I agree with this Erin.

          • That’s victim-blaming and there’s no way around it. Literally expecting a 13-year-old girl to have greater knowledge and better boundaries (with someone she has learned is in authority over her) than a grown man. This is part of a sickening system in which we hold a child to an adult level of responsibility. It is wrong.

            One of many major problems with complementarianism, no matter how “benevolent,” is that there is no real-world accountability. Ask woman who have been emotionally/spiritually/physically/sexually abused what sort of response they nearly always get from church leaders. You will not get any help there. It is a rare exception when a male church leader is willing to hold another male accountable for abuses.

            It’s easier to put the responsibility on the victim, so that’s what church leaders usually do, and that’s what is being done here. Regardless of how it is dressed up.

        • “If Natalie’s blog post title here said instead “how my distorted, immature, completely upside down understanding of my church’s teachings on submission and mutual respect led to me feeling forced to submit when I shouldn’t have …”
          Well, that title would be far more accurate.”

          Way to blame the victim. And that IS what you’re doing, no matter how much you might try to deny it. And all in an attempt to pass the buck and not look deeply at the failures of your own church. I get it, it sucks when the people we look up to as role models stumble from their pedestals. But that is not an excuse to do what you’re doing.

          • JJ, We both know you don’t blame the victim. And in this case where the abuse was absolutely contrary to what their church taught/teaches you can’t blame church–YOU BLAME the ABUSER.
            In this case the abuser was manipulating specific teachings of scripture into a horrific LIE.
            If at any point the abuser had told anyone from church leadership what he was doing and saying to Natalie he would have been expelled then, turned in then, etc. He would NOT have gotten high fives or wink-nod.
            Knowing what should happen doesn’t make it your fault when “shouldn’t happens”. You are not responsible for another’s sin.

            If I get off the bus in the wrong part of town it’s not my fault if I’m robbed (or worse) even if I have that gut feeling “I shouldn’t be here”.

  • I discovered this blog today after reading about the abuse case of Natalie Rose Greenfield at a different site. First, I’d like to address the usage of the term Complementarian. Many here have suggested that such a view is dangerous to women, taking away their free agency. I’d like to suggest that while Comp doctrine is problematic for women, Patriarchy takes this view to a whole other toxic level. In other words, from all that I have read about Complementarianism and Patriarchy, it is my understanding that the latter view places women in a far more restrictive role. And it is to the latter – Patriarchy – that Doug Wilson and the CREC subscribe. If one really wants to fully grasp Doug Wilson’s views, start with reading Nancy Wilson’s book, “The Fruit of Her Hands.” Doug Wilson commends the roles and views of women put forth in this book by stating in the Foreword: “Probably the best thing I can bring to this book is the testimony that Nancy diligently practices what she exhorts women to do.” And, “As Christian women consider how they may stand as godly helpers to their husbands in this high calling, I can do nothing better than comment this book to them.” Now, if you haven’t done so already, read the book in order to get an eye-opening, clear view of what Nancy Wilson, and by extension Doug Wilson, believe how women are to conduct themselves within a marriage, how they should think, and what their clearly defined roles are. Then go on to read Nancy Wilson’s posts on the Femina blog, in which one can only come away understanding women to be lesser creatures than men in both their calling and worth.

  • In my first comment I failed to thank Natalie for her courage in continuing to address her abuse. You are a bright, and shining light upon the dark world of sexual abuse! Thank you for defending victims of sexual abuse and exposing the m.o. of abusers. You have been given a voice to speak for many who are as yet unable to speak. Continue strong in this good and commendable work, Natalie! Many are supportive of you, as I hope you must know.

  • I don’t know how to add a reply to specific comments; please forgive me. My comment is in response to Jess, who states her understanding of Wilson’s teaching at Christ Church re: ONE head per woman:

    Jess, that may be what YOU hear, but it is not what has been spread from Christ Church into the world. I have been in an arm’s length relationship with people at a private school who are TIGHT with Wilson and graduates of New St. Andrews. People who send their children to New St. Andrews and hope they will go to Greyfriars. Who attend CREC churches. And believe me, they are adamant that a woman is subordinate to ANY man who is in the CREC/Wilson/New St. Andrews circles. I was told so to my face and I was treated so. I was told to keep quiet at the private school meetings, a school which claimed NOT to be affiliated with any church…and yet this dogma held true even there.

    So whether or not Wilson is teaching what you say, that is not how it has been lived out by those who have sat at his feet and imbibed his pastoral guidance. That’s a fact.

    I am happy for you that you have a good husband. I’m sure he is a good man. But he is not my head. Or Natalie’s–and there’s no way that a 13yo SHOULD have known that when it is apparently confusing enough for the adults I referenced above.

    • PaJo. It sounds like you were mistreated; your decision as to how you want to follow up with them is of course yours, but by all means, I’d encourage you to do so. You should not have been told or see in practice the requirement of a woman submitting to *any* man.
      My only wild guess would be that the board was being a stickler for only discussing agenda items that had been called in to the secretary prior to the meeting. But it sounds like your unbiblical experiences were more than just a school board meeting.
      I can’t speak to your experiences with churches, schools, or churches connected to the CREC. But I can speak to mine: what I have described and quoted are not only what I have heard, they are what I have experienced. I have been taught that one of the protections for women in Christianity is that they are not required to submit to more than one man; I’ve repeatedly observed this in practice: wives/daughters confidently being lovingly led by their one and only head.
      This is why, as a Christian nation, our culture’s customs include men and women dining at the same table at the same together–unlike some cultures where women eat separately, or seated lower, or after the men.
      Now having one head to submit to, of course, is different than submitting to general laws and regulations; which is done by all law abiding citizens.
      All of mankind is to follow the guidelines put in place by the authorities God has placed over them–unless those guidelines are unbiblical. Guidelines like speed limits, courtroom procedure, mailing letters with stamps. We all submit to those decisions.

      Lots of people have gotten hung up on me saying “should have known”.
      I’d like to explain this more, because I should have been more clear initially.
      We have several young children; they know that they shouldn’t go with a stranger; further they know they shouldn’t be afraid of death if a bad guy tries to scare them by saying he’ll kill them if they don’t do what they’re told. They know they should cause a spectacularly loud scene and pray; my hope is they’d never face this. My hope is we never find out if they know what they should do if someone dangerous tells them what to do.
      But if they did freeze, panic,and forget what to do in the hopes that the dangerous stranger would be kind and really have kittens, or candy—well, would it be their fault?
      No.
      It’s always the abuser’s fault.
      My point in saying “Natalie should” was to chorus that what her abuser told her was contrary to what had been taught to him and all the congregants at Christ Church.

      Under pressure and duress the best of us can forget what to do.
      I’m hardly ‘the best of us’ but I know a thing or two about first aid; however, when my son cut his finger I was not calm, I did not apply pressure, I did not elevate it above his head. I panicked and ran it under cold water, getting less and less calm as the water ran light red into the sink.
      Thankfully I also called my husband who said: “Is it clean? Okay. Carefully apply pressure and elevate it”.
      Simplistic example, I know.
      But it’s one thing to know what you’ve been taught you should do.
      It’s another thing to do it when you’re under fire.
      It’s a third thing to say you were taught wrongly.

      • “Wives/daughters confidently being lovingly led by their one and only head.”

        So once again, this doesn’t mean their one&only God-installed-upon-their-necks head, right? They are the new Frankenstein ladies. 🙂 However, I continue to recommend that you keep your own head about you.

        “…they know they shouldn’t go with a stranger…if a bad guy tries to scare them…”

        This is excellent but did you know that most child sexual abuse comes via relative or family friend? That’s a subversion difficult to evade. It is important that you also teach your children all about their bodies and that those bodies are their own and not for anyone else.

        This subversion was used in young Natalie’s life. Wight was a well-respected student approved by the pastor of their church, and part of the exclusive school/church boarding program. That’s also why WIght could slide in (like a knife) the comp doctrines that Natalie heard at church as if they were the Word of God Himself. It was sheer destruction against a child who could not know better. It was deep deception against a mother/father by a hidden predator.

        For a 13 yr old, there is no “shoulding”, no forgetting or remembering, no “keeping it together under pressure”.

        And let’s look at “taught wrongly”. The church is usually considered, by believers, to be safe places. I suspect you sincerely believe that it is, as Natalie’s parents did. Well, you are wrong, as were Natalie’s parents. If you will take the proper lesson here, you will agree that you were taught wrongly about your church.

        So God help us parents, that we will be blessed enough, graced enough to be right there if/when our children attract the attention of a wolf in a seminarian-sheep’s clothing.

      • It was not about sticking to an agenda item at a board meeting. Women weren’t allowed at board meetings. Here is an example of how a general school meeting went: the open discussion was about starting times for school. I raised my hand and was called upon and made a suggestion. The president said that we couldn’t discuss that option. Two minutes later a male made exactly the same suggestion, and it got discussion and the suggestion was adopted. I was told after the meeting that my husband should have been the one at the meeting, the one to make the proposal. It was a good idea, it just had to come from a male. Blah blah blah.

        Here’s the rich part: my husband had asked me to handle the school things as I had the background and interest and he was swamped at work. It is ironic that the president over-rode my husband’s “headship” in sending me to represent our family by ignoring my suggestion because I am female. THAT is the sort of thing that went on all the time, and the women agreed with it…that they were subordinate to any man in this community.

        I am not sorry for myself in this situation. I was launched into a sincere search for Christ, and have been so richly rewarded … but it was a hard road out of that milieu, and I was only at arm’s length. I don’t know how it is to be in the center of it, and I never want to.

  • You asked me a long string of questions somewhere in the middle of this sea of threads. My short answer to you is that given what you are saying, you don’t not know our church community or its teaching well. Especially, well enough to make such sweeping judgments. I say this while believing fully that what Natalie went through with Jamin was horrific and the aftermath heartbreaking, for her and her family. I am truly sorry for the damage sinful men brought to her life.

    However, Doug teaches very strongly, both in sermons and in his writing, that men’s authority is never absolute in any sphere of life. A wife (or daughter) is called to be an Abigail to a Nabel when a husband (or father) is playing the tyrant, acting as if his authority is absolute. I have seen this in action (not merely empty words) and I am thankful for the active protection of girls and women I have watched over the years.

    • Dear Heather,

      Natalie Greenfield does know your church, perhaps even better than she would like. She knows not only what Doug teaches, but how he treated her and her family. That speaks volumes more to me than whatever he might proclaim from the pulpit.

      I am truly sorry for the damage sinful men brought to her life.

      Are you including Doug in that? Specifically, the fact that he sat on Wight’s side of the courtroom, and not Natalie’s. And his creepy, unnecessary prying into the details of her sex life during her last meeting with him. Those actions are sinful and damaging as well, Heather. I can find no justification for them.

      • Doug did not sit with Jamin. He did not side with Jamin. He did not ever believe Jamin about anything unless their were multiple witnessss. He stood by Natalie and her sister and mom in tangible ways in a very rough season that followed. And at the time she expressed gratitude.
        I can’t and won’t speak to how Natalie – feels – about her last meeting but I know Doug well. He is a godly pastor who cares enough to encourage repentance when there is destructive sin in our lives. That is never comfortable. I know other girls who he counseled about similar situations and their response was different. God used Doug and his counsel about their sins to bring about repentance in their lives. Natalie decided to move on from the church.
        How many of the parties involved have you actually met or spent any time with? It doesn’t make the situation clear as glass or simplistic but judgements from the court of the Internet have been ridiculous as well as unscriptural. Real sins, real mess. Real healing needed. Lies and half truths about people invoved only harm.

        • So Natalie is lying. Or Doug lied to you. Or you are lying. Hmmm…..

          Yeeeaahhhh well, I think I will believe Natalie, if for no other reason than that you further write: “I know other girls [sic] who he counseled about similar situations….God used Doug and his counsel about their sins to bring about repentance in their lives….”

          This is close to the most destructive thing to do to someone who has been shredded by sexual abuse—sit with them until they repent of their own sins. It requires a particularly cruel form of power-delusion. In fact, it’s so out-of-touch with reality that I can believe you truly think your father-in-law didn’t sit on Jamin’s side of court.

          Wilson claims opposite facts, as it suits him, and choosing among them for your own comfort is not going to end well. I pray that you learn to see more clearly, Heather, before then. God help us all.

        • And at the time she expressed gratitude.

          I’m sure Natalie did. She was still in the “kirk” bubble. I doubt she had much idea how differently she’d be treated outside of it. I think she’s learned a lot more since then.

          I can’t and won’t speak to how Natalie – feels – about her last meeting…

          Are you saying the problem isn’t with Doug’s counselling, but with how Natalie feels about it? Sounds rather patronizing to me.

          How many of the parties involved have you actually met or spent any time with?

          I haven’t met Jesus face to face yet either, Heather. But I’m willing to trust in Him, based on His words and the testimony about Him. It’s on much the same basis that I’m inclined to believe Natalie, and not trust Doug.

        • Dear Heather,
          You refer to “judgements from the court of the Internet”. Please note that your father-in-law has himself chosen the internet as his medium of expression, including to repeatedly address Natalie and her family. In his role as “pastor” (the scare quotes are quite intentional) he has sought to influence the body of Christ well beyond the walls of his own church, via the internet. He is now quite appropriately being judged there, by many believers including myself who are mature in the faith and take seriously the New Testament commandments in I Timothy 3 and Titus 1 regarding those who are permitted to hold spiritual authority in the body of Christ. Regardless of his theology, Doug Wilson fails those tests. He is not above reproach. He has not been hospitable in his treatment of Natalie. He has not maintained a good reputation with those outside the church. He is intemperate in his manner and his speech, he is quarrelsome, and his self-stated pleasure in increasing his readership via controversy–heedless of the hurt of any real people he uses in this way–shows that he is “greedy for gain”.

          So I don’t have to “spend time” with Doug Wilson. He has left plenty of words on the internet for me to read, and those words condemn him, just as Matthew 12:37 clearly states that they will. His words toward Natalie are reprehensible and without excuse. I and many others believe that it demonstrates his lack of qualification for ministry.

          Please note as well that I am troubled by the way you seem in your comments here, to have adopted his tactics of obfuscation. For example, Serving Kids said “he sat on Wight’s side of the courtroom” while you countered “Doug did not sit with Jamin”. Technically correct, because Jamin was in the dock, but changing those words lets you defend Doug while neatly evading the real issue that witness testimonies confirm that Doug sat on Jamin’s side of the courtroom (Doug says he doesn’t remember). I hope this was just a lack of clear writing on your part, because otherwise you should question whether you have yourself learned too well from Doug how to evade the truth. That is not the way of Christ, in whom there is NO variableness or shadow of turning (James 1:17).

    • Thanks Heather. Of course, I believe in “equal” authority among men and women no matter how great, godly, protective the men are in the home and church (I believe the Bible teaches this).

      I am not being judgemental; I am suspicious of your church, but I am actually trying not to be judgemental. That is why I have welcomed you and your church member’s side of the story here in the comments.

      I gave Natalie the mic because I believe many women need to hear her story. But I have invited all sides to the conversation as long as everyone is respectful.

    • “You don’t know our church community or its teaching well.”

      Sheesh. The same could be said about those who opposed Adolph Hitler and the Nazis at the peak of their power. We don’t need to sit in the pew to “know”. We look at the results of their rhetoric and propaganda, I can’t bring myself to call it “teachings”, and see the destroyed lives.

      The skeletons around a toxic water hole are enough to tell me not to drink from it.

  • I’ve been pattering on here in support of Natalie without telling her that I think she is magnificent for standing up sturdy and strong, after all that.

    I particularly enjoy your most recent response to the CREC inquiry. You go girl.

    • Heather, I am reminded that God used Balaam’s donkey, too. The donkey, at least, was wise enough not to go around offering ‘testimonies’ as to his perspicacity and faithful bearing of burdens. Of course members of your church speak positively…they have only to look to Natalie to see what will happen if they don’t. Doug (and you) should be ashamed of using these women to prop himself up, when glory should only be given to God.

  • I want to state how horrified I am by Doug Wilson’s post, Jezehellsbells. Here/there commenter Headless Unicorn Guy posted a great quotation: “Occasionally their crust gets pierced, and the scalding lava of their hate spills out.” CS Lewis, preface to The Screwtape Letters

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